Our blog has written on the use of solitary confinement, its impacts, and the efforts for prison reform many times.
To continue the discussion about this dark penal practice, here is a more recent report compiled and published by ACLU. It sheds the much needed light on the use and misuse of solitary confinement and prisoners with mental and physical disabilities.
This report provides a first-ever national ACLU account of the suffering prisoners with physical disabilities experience in solitary confinement. It spotlights the dangers for blind people, Deaf people, people who are unable to walk without assistance, and people with other physical disabilities who are being held in small cells for 22 hours a day or longer, for days, months, and even years.
Few statistics from the report:
- “Nearly 50% of all suicides by incarcerated people are completed in solitary confinement.”
- “Prisoners with disabilities are placed in solitary confinement even when it serves no penological purpose.”
- “Approximately 80,000 to 100,000 people are held in solitary confinement in the U.S.”
- “32% prisoners and 40% of jail detainees report having at least one disability.”
- “Solitary confinement inflicts psychological and physical damage on human beings.”
- “Prisoners with physical disabilities are placed into solitary confinement due to a lack of accessible cells.”
An editorial in The New York Times today summarizes the status of the administration’s decision to terminate its contracts with private prisons — or at least to study the question. It also suggests that the administration should re-think its use of prisons to house immigration violators who are not a threat.
Prof. Michael B. Mushlin, of Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law, is a nationally renown expert on the prison system in the United States. He has authored a four volume treatise titled Rights of Prisoners, written numerous articles on the issues of prisoners’ rights and prison oversight, and testified in the NYS Assembly Standing Committee on Correction in support of a comprehensive prison reform in New York State.
Most recently he spoke with NowThis News about the state of affairs in US prisons in a clip titled In Some Prisons, Guard Break the Law Instead of Upholding, commenting on solitary confinement, brutality, physical abuse, contraband and corruption in U.S. prisons. To find out more about the life behind bars tune in on Thursdays at 10/9 central to A&E for a rel-life series titled 60 Days In.
POST WRITTEN BY: Michael B. Mushlin, Professor of Law at Pace Law School, Scholar, and Renowned Expert on Prisoners’ Rights.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) sets up roadblocks for prisoners in civil rights cases that are uniquely harsh including a requirement that prisoners must exhaust all available administrative remedies. This exhaustion requirement, which is not imposed on other civil rights litigants, often keeps litigants with meritorious claims out of court. Recently, in Ross v. Blake, No. 15-339, the Supreme Court took a Maryland case from the Fourth Circuit holding that the exhaustion requirement should be excused if the inmate makes a “reasonable mistake” about whether a particular administrative remedy is, in fact, available.
However, during oral argument last week the Court learned that this issue may not be presented by this case at all. This is because in papers filed with the Court before the case was argued it appeared that Maryland’s complicated and confusing administrative remedies were probably, in fact, unavailable to the inmate after all. Thus, there was no “reasonable mistake” after all. And no need to decide whether if there were such a mistake that would excuse the inmate from the obligation to exhaust.
Based on this new information it appears from the oral argument of the case that the Court will either remand the case or dismiss the case as improvidently granted for review. But even if the case is dismissed or remanded the case has value because the oral argument record available here reveals dramatically the Kafkaesque world of confusing remedies that prisoners must confront and overcome to achieve their day in court. If one needs proof of the lack of wisdom of the PLRA’s exhaustion requirement, and the need to repeal it, look no further.