"Real immigration reform will have to address the laws responsible for breaking up families and "removing" 1.4 million people from the U.S. in the past 4 years. It will have to accept that labeling someone a "criminal alien" doesn't change the fact that she may have a family and deep ties to this society -- and as much right to stay here as a U.S. citizen who has completed a criminal sentence. Here's why:
"The 1996 laws drastically expanded the range of crimes for which lawful residents are subject to mandatory detention and removal. These laws also stripped such immigrants of the right even to apply for a waiver of deportation from an immigration judge. Thousands of detainees, including lawful permanent residents, are denied bond hearings and have "no chance to argue for their release before a judge, regardless of how long they languish in detention.""
The Justice Mapping Center uses demographic data to produce detailed, color-coded maps that show the damage done to neighborhoods, and the government resources exhausted, by a criminal justice system that depends upon mass incarceration. The JMC desribes its project this way:
"We specialize in using computer mapping—otherwise known as Geographic Information Systems or GIS—to help our partners better understand, evaluate, and communicate criminal justice and other social policy information"
NPR reports on the JMC and the difference it is making for communities and policymakers, here.
On Monday, September 17, a crowd gathered at Philadelphia’s Love Park to hear survivors of solitary confinement and their family members speak out about conditions in Pennsylvania’s prison system. The rally was organized by the Human Rights Coalition, a grassroots group of family members of prisoners calling for the abolition of solitary confinement in the state. The event was held in anticipation of a state legislative hearing the following day, where representatives heard testimony from mental health professionals, legal experts, advocates, former inmates, and family members of prisoners in solitary confinement. The committee heard testimony from Robert King, the former Black Panther and one of the Angola 3, who spent 29 years in isolation following his widely condemned conviction for the murder of a prison guard in the 1970s. Theresa Shoats spoke about the effects of spending 30 of the last 40 years in solitary confinement on her father, imprisoned black radical Russell Maroon Shoats.
Thomas Dichter is a PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. He focuses on the intertwined histories of race and imprisonment in the US. He is also a member of Decarcerate PA.
At The Nation, Jean Casella and James Ridgeway on solitary confinement and torture in New York State today, with some glances back toward the nineteenth-century history of imprisonment.
"A common misconception is that solitary confinement is a punishment of last resort, reserved for inmates who present a threat of violence or escape. The reality—especially in New York, which has the highest rate of “disciplinary segregation” in the country—is that it’s very much a punishment of first resort, doled out for minor rule violations as well as major offenses. In New York, the most common reason for a stint in solitary is creating a “disturbance” or “demonstration.” This can mean anything from mouthing off to guards to fomenting a riot, and it often involves inmates with psychoses or other psychiatric problems. Second is “dirty urine”—testing positive for drugs of any kind. In a prison system where 85 percent of inmates are in need of substance-abuse treatment, drug use alone can get you up to ninety days in solitary, and a year if it happens multiple times. Other infractions include refusing to obey orders, “interfering with employees,” being “out of place” and possession of contraband—not only a shiv but a joint, a cellphone or too many postage stamps."
Much more from Casella and Ridgeway at their site, Solitary Watch.
Dayan describes her encounters with inmates at an Arizona state lockup in Florence:
"Prisoners there are locked alone in their cells for 23 hours a day. Their food is delivered through a slot in the door of their 80-square-foot cell. They stare at unpainted concrete walls onto which nothing can be put. They look through doors of perforated steel, what one officer described to me as “irregular-shaped Swiss cheese.” Except for the occasional touch of a guard’s hand as they are handcuffed and chained when they leave their cells, they have no contact with another human being."
Colin Dayan is the Robert Penn Warren Professor of Humanities at Vanderbilt and the author of The Law is a White Dog: How Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons. Visit her website, here.
On June 19, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, chaired by Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, will hold the first-ever Congressional hearing on solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails. The subcommittee is inviting “interested advocates and experts” to submit written testimony to be included in the hearing record. This is a rare opportunity for those with an interest in this issue–including people with firsthand experience of solitary confinement, and their loved ones–to make their voices heard at the highest levels of government.
All those who wish to submit testimony need to do so by June 15 at 5 p.m. Statements should be emailed to Nicholas Deml at Nicholas_Deml@judiciary-dem.senate.gov. Statements should be less than ten pages. They are customarily addressed to the committee’s chair and ranking minority member–in this case, “Dear Chairman Durbin and Ranking Member Graham.” It is also advisable to begin by identifying yourself, your affiliation, and your connection to the issue of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails.
Solitary Watch will be creating an archive of written testimony, accessible to all on the website. If you wish to be included, please send a copy of your statement to firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the BBC, Sean Clare and Daniel Nasaw report on conditions in American "Super-Max" prisons, with a focus on ADX Florence in Colorado:
"The prison, known for its high-profile inmates, small cells and restrictions on contact with the outside world, has an infamous international reputation: mainly because of its policy of holding its inmates in almost permanent solitary confinement."
At The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen reports on the suicide of Jose Martin Vega at ADX Florence. A lawsuit alleges that officials at the notorious prison are responsible for Vega's death:
"The pending complaint alleges that Supermax officials mistreated Vega in contravention of Bureau of Prison policies governing the treatment of prisoners with mental health diagnoses. "BOP policies require that mentally ill prisoners be monitored on an ongoing basis to asses treatment compliance," the complaint states, but "BOP does not provide adequate mental health staffing at ADX Florence, given the size of the mental health caseload at that facility." Vega may be gone, in other words, but the problems his case highlight likely linger."