by Karima Amin
A new year always brings on thoughts and feelings of new energy, fresh ideas, and novel approaches. As Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. enters its ninth year of prisoner justice advocacy, 2014 will be a year of increased education and enhanced advocacy that serves to engage your input regarding local and statewide justice issues. We have always encouraged you to join us in advocating for justice, right here in Buffalo and beyond. January has us bringing some attention to the plight of those who are held in solitary (isolated) confinement. We have highlighted this issue before and we’re doing it again to solicit your active involvement in challenging a prison policy that is cruel and inhumane. In a word: torture. Your voice, your signature, and your interest will help to move legislation that will end the kind of long-term solitary confinement that rots the mind, body, and spirit. We have known this for decades. The U.S. prison system incarcerates more of its people than any other country in the world and it also isolate more of its own citizens than any other country in history.
Prison administrators say that solitary confinement provides discipline and prevents violence. Several studies, examining the relationship between prison violence and isolated confinement, have shown that this is generally untrue. While the U. S. has quadrupled its incarceration rate in the last thirty years, work, education and therapeutic programs have been discontinued. While prison space has increased, opportunities for rehabilitation on the inside have decreased. This is a recipe for violence.
Currently, there are about 80,000 prisoners in solitary confinement. While there are some who are truly dangerous and who pose a serious threat, most are not violent or dangerous. Some have mental health issues that are not being dealt with. Some are escapees or suspected gang members. Long-term isolation is often misused, placing a person in solitary for years…even decades.
Not too long ago, some Americans accepted legalized segregation. Today, some Americans accept legalized torture in the form of isolated confinement. It has been proven that living with no human contact for an extended period, can lead to severe psychiatric harm. The Center for Constitutional Rights has this to say: “Today, tens of thousands of individuals across the country are detained inside cramped, concrete, windowless cells in a state of near-total solitude for between 22 and 24 hours a day. The cells have a toilet and a shower, and a slot in the door large enough for a guard to slip a food tray through. Prisoners in solitary confinement are frequently deprived of telephone calls and contact visits. ‘Recreation’ involves being taken, often in handcuffs and shackles, to another solitary cell where prisoners can pace alone for an hour before being returned to their cell. Ever since solitary confinement came into existence, it has been used as a tool of repression. While it is justified by corrections officials as necessary to protect prisoners and guards from violent superpredators, all too often it is imposed on individuals, particularly prisoners of color, who threaten prison administrations in an altogether different way. Consistently, jailhouse lawyers and jailhouse doctors, who administer to the needs of their fellow prisoners behind bars, are placed in solitary confinement. They are joined by political prisoners from various civil rights and independence movements.”
Join us on Monday, January 27, 2014 for a full-day of workshops about Solitary Confinement. We urge you to join the fight against it. CAIC (Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement) will be in Buffalo to conduct these workshops . We urge you to attend. At 12:30, CAIC will be at Back to Basics, 1370 William Street in Buffalo. At 7:00, CAIC will present a program on Solitary Confinement at Prisoners Are People Too’s regular monthly meeting at Pratt-Willert, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo. To RSVP or ask questions, contact BaBa Eng, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Karima Amin, email@example.com.
“God has not called us to see through each other, but to see each other through.” (Anonymous)