On Tuesday, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) houses thousands of prisoners in solitary confinement conditions so harsh they violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
This is from Tuesday’s statement:
While other states also use solitary confinement, Arizona has added features that seem designed to gratuitously increase suffering. The cells in that state’s supermax Special Management Units (SMUs) were deliberately constructed with no windows to the outside, so prisoners — many of whom have no means of telling the time — become disoriented and confused, not knowing the whether it is day or night. The cells are often illuminated 24 hours a day, making sleep difficult and further contributing to prisoners’ disorientation and mental deterioration.
Some prisoners in solitary spend all but six hours a week alone in their cells. Their only respite occurs when they are taken to a slightly larger windowless cell, with no equipment, for “exercise.” Many prisoners refuse to go, because the cell is so small that it doesn’t allow meaningful exercise, and because prisoners are placed in restraints and strip-searched when going to and returning from the cell. And in a final cruelty, ADC reasons that because prisoners in solitary don’t get much exercise, they don’t need much food — some receive only two meals a day….
…..…“The prison conditions in Arizona are among the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Donald Specter, executive director of the Berkeley, Calif.-based Prison Law Office. “Prisoners have a constitutional right to receive adequate health care, and it is unconscionable for them to be left to suffer and die in the face of neglect and deliberate indifference.”
Arizona has the 6th highest incarceration rate in the nation.
The ACLU was joined in the filing by the Prison Law Office, the Arizona Center for Disability Law, and the law firms Jones Day and Perkins Coie.
LATEST REPORT FROM VERA INSTITUTE SHOWS LESSONS FROM 14 STATES WHO HAVE SENTENCING REFORM, AND INCARCERATION ALTERNATIVES
Here’s a clip from the executive summary:
Most states are facing budget crises, and criminal justice agencies are not exempt. With fewer dollars available, they are challenged to increase public safety while coping with smaller budgets. This report distills lessons from 14 states that passed research-driven sentencing and corrections reform in 2011 and is based on interviews with stakeholders and experts, and the experience of technical assistance staff at the Vera Institute of Justice. It is intended to serve as a guide to policy makers and others interested in pursuing evidence-based justice reform in their jurisdiction.
Legislatures throughout the United States enacted sentencing and corrections policy changes in 2011 that were based on data analysis of their prison populations and the growing body of research on practices that can reduce recidivism. Although this emphasis on using evidence to inform practice is not new in criminal justice, legislators are increasingly relying on this science to guide the use of taxpayer dollars more effectively to improve public safety outcomes.
In highlighting important legislative
Sadly, California hasn’t, as yet, joined these forward looking fourteen. But check it out. The details are interesting.
NOTE: VERY LIGHT POSTING TODAY as my Interwebs have been down and are still behaving strangely. (Wind? Ghosts? Disgruntled public officials with garden sheers?) Good things coming tomorrow, I promise. So stay tuned.
Photo of Colorado’s SuperMax by Chris McLean/AP