Here's Jim Ridgeway's Solitary Watch News.
We've been waiting for this sister "prison watch" site for a few months now - it's turning into an awesome resource. I've been hoping more institutions of higher learning would take similar responsibility as these folks have for coordinating and maintaining something like this. Can't seem to get anyone at Arizona State University all that interested in the prisons, so we're just freelance bloggers figuring this out as we go.
Thanks, Jim, for bringing the secrecy and shame of solitary confinement in the US into the light of day. Thanks to all you folks out there at the Washington and Lee University School of Law who are working on this project. I believe it will help bring some measure of human suffering to an end.
Spend some time at the site, folks - there are some great resources there. Let's put an end to this practice in 2010. Start talking now, and use the political campaign season to get candidates to make public commitments to restricting the use of such conditions of confinement, be they employed for prisoner management, administrative convenience, "therapeutic" reasons, protection, or punishment, they end up serving as torture.
This Solitary Watch News site is part of an emerging project called Solitary Watch, which will serve as the first centralized source of information on solitary confinement in the United States. The full Solitary Watch web site will be launched in the spring of 2010.
Many Americans have recoiled from the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, and polls show that a clear majority oppose the use of torture under any circumstances, even on foreign terrorism suspects. Yet conditions of confinement in U.S. prisons and jails that transgress the boundaries of humane treatment have produced little outcry. The use of solitary confinement in the United States is the clearest example of this. Solitary confinement has grown dramatically in the past two decades; today, at least 25,000 prisoners, and probably many more, are being held in long-term lockdown. This widespread practice has received scant media attention, and has yet to find a place in the public discourse or on political platforms.
Solitary Watch is conceived as an innovative public web site aimed at bringing this issue out of the shadows and into the light of the public square. The mission of Solitary Watch is to provide the public—as well as practicing attorneys, legal scholars, law enforcement and corrections officers, policymakers, educators, advocates, and prisoners–with the first comprehensive source of information on solitary confinement in the United States. Combining a database compiled through state-by-state research with background, analysis, and breaking news, the site will serve as an information clearinghouse, educational resource, and online community.
This project is being launched at a pivotal moment, coinciding with several important developments in U.S. criminal justice. As Americans’ support for executions wanes in the wake of numerous exonerations and excessive costs, the alternative punishment of choice seems to be long-term solitary confinement, whether on prison death rows or in supermax lockdown units. Solitary confinement also awaits accused and convicted terrorists as they are transferred onto American soil from Guantanamo and elsewhere. Finally, in the absence of appropriate medical care, solitary confinement has increasingly been used as a way to control and warehouse mentally ill prisoners. As these trends continue, there will be an increasing need for a comprehensive, reliable source of information on this practice, and on the many practical, legal, and ethical questions it raises.
Solitary Watch is a collaboration between investigative journalists, scholars, and law students. Originally proposed by journalist James Ridgeway, the project has been developed in collaboration with the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse (VC3), a clinical program of the Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, Virginia directed by veteran death penalty attorney David Bruck.
The Solitary Watch site will be hosted by Washington and Lee Law School. Bruck and his VC3 students will be responsible for gathering information for the Solitary Watch database, as well as contributing to other portions of the site. After developing a model, they will work to enlist other law school clinics across the country in collecting information on solitary confinement facilities and practices within their states. This information will be fed into the database, and also displayed on state-specific pages designed and maintained by each participating law school clinic.
Solitary Watch News–original reporting on solitary confinement, as well as the Solitary Watch news blog, the archive of information and resources, oral history project, and social networking elements of the web site–is overseen by James Ridgeway in collaboration with writer and editor Jean Casella, with assistance from interns and additional contributions from law students and others. This site is a temporary home for Solitary Watch News, and will be integrated into the larger Washington and Lee site once the database and other elements have been developed.
Solitary Watch News is a project of the Community Futures Collective, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, which serves as its fiscal sponsor for all grants and donations. Contact: Marina Drummer, Community Futures Collective, 221 Idora Avenue, Vallejo, CA 94591. 707-644-6575. firstname.lastname@example.org.