Friday, March 25, 2011 at 10:34am
Congressmen John Conyers (D-MI), Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-VA) and Cedric Richmond (D-LA) invite you to attend a briefing and documentary screening on:
The Abuses of Solitary Confinement in the U.S. Criminal Justice System
Wednesday, April 6, 2011 -- Room 2226 Rayburn HOB
3:30 PM Briefing
Each day tens of thousands of prisoners in the U.S. are held in solitary confinement. Usually in isolation for at least 23 hours a day and denied human contact, these inmates are subject to a range of other restrictive conditions. This briefing will examine the detrimental impacts of the abusive use or over-use of solitary confinement, including its disproportionate impact on inmates of color, the appropriateness of its use on mentally ill inmates, and other concerns about its use by correctional facilities.
Welcome by Congressmen John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Robert C. " Bobby" Scott (D-VA)
· Michael Randle, Program Manager for the Judge Nancy R. McDonnell Community Based Correctional Facility
· Robert King, Only Freed Member of the Angola 3, Released in 2001 after 29 years in Solitary Confinement in Angola Prison in Louisiana
· David Fathi, Director, American Civil Liberties Union, National Prison Project
· Laura L. Rovner, Associate Professor of Law, Civil Rights Clinic, University of Denver College of Law
· Tory Pegram, Campaign Coordinator, International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 (Moderator)
4:30 PM Documentary Screening
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) will participate in the documentary screening.
"In the Land of the Free..." Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this documentary examines the story of three extraordinary men known as the "Angola 3" Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King who together have spent more than a century in solitary confinement in Louisiana. Two of the men are still held in solitary after a record 39 years.
There will be a discussion with Robert King, and Carine Williams, Angola 3 attorney for both civil and criminal cases following screening.
----here's what Colorado is doing to protect their disabled citizens in solitary----
SB-176 will be heard by the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, March 14, at 1:30 p.m. It will end the all-too-common practice of warehousing prisoners with serious mental illness in solitary confinement. The bill would require a mental health evaluation for prisoners before they are placed in solitary and permit such isolation only in extreme situations. It also would support mental and behavioral health alternatives to solitary confinement through cost-saving mechanisms and ensure that prisoners are reintegrated into the general prison population before their community release.
SB 176 introduced by Senator Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) and Representative Claire Levy (D-Boulder), is a response to the growing number of inmates in Colorado prisons who’ve been diagnosed as mentally ill or developmentally disabled – and the staggering cost of using solitary confinement, rather than mental or behavioral health alternatives, as the default placement without regard to medical needs, institutional security, or prisoner and public safety.
“What we get from continuing the policy of placing prisoners with mental health issues or developmental disabilities in solitary confinement is increased costs for incarceration, increased recidivism rates and reduced public safety,” said Senator Carroll. “Especially in tough economic times, we can do better by using cost-saving mental health evaluation and treatment options rather than budget-busting solitary confinement.”
Currently, 37% of those in solitary confinement are prisoners with mental illness or developmental disabilities – up from 15% just a decade ago. Those confined to solitary in Colorado (more than 1,400 inmates) spend 23 hours a day in isolation, for 16 months on average, at an increased additional cost of from $14,933 to $21,485 per year, per inmate.
“Colorado cannot afford business as usual in its prison system,” said Representative Levy. “We must use science and behavioral health research to get a better result from costly imprisonment. Solitary confinement is the harshest and most expensive option. It should be used sparingly and only with appropriate limitations so prisoners with mental illness don’t become more ill and aren’t made more dangerous.”
Solitary confinement, said Terri Hurst, Director of Public Policy at the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council, is not only costly, it’s dangerous to prisoner health and the public good. “It’s important that offenders with mental health issues be provided treatment services as to not exacerbate their health status. Solitary confinement has been shown to worsen or lead to the onset of mental health disorders and should not be used as an alternative to treatment. Providing treatment services both inside correctional facilities as well as in the community, improves behavioral health outcomes.”
Jessie Ulibarri, Public Policy Director for the ACLU of Colorado, said SB 176 promotes the shared goals of restoring those released from prison to productive roles in society. “By undermining the innate human need for social interaction, solitary confinement works against our goals as a society. Currently 41% of inmates in solitary confinement are released directly from their cell to the street -- a dangerous practice -- without time to readjust to human interaction while still under supervision. What we want are people ready to fully integrate back into their communities; not people who are released from solitary confinement and led directly to the prison gate, only destined to return again.”