Virginia Prisons Accountability Committee: WHEN NOTED "EXPRESS INDIFFERENCE": RED ONION STATE PRISON, MENTAL HEALTH and IT'S PRACTICE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

Monday, December 5, 2016

WHEN NOTED "EXPRESS INDIFFERENCE": RED ONION STATE PRISON, MENTAL HEALTH and IT'S PRACTICE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

As early as 1890: the U.S. Supreme Court in the case: In Re Medley, 134 US 160 [1890] dealing with Solitary Confinement or as it's currently nuanced euphemistically Administrative Segregation wrote:


"A considerable number of the Prisoners fell after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and other became violently insane; others, still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases, did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community."
That 1890 court concluded that Solitary Confinement is "an infamous punishment"

In 1988; The Seventh Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals determined in Davenport v. Derobertis 844 F.2.d 1310: 

"That isolating a Human Being from other Human Beings year after year or even month after month can cause substantial psychological damage, even if the isolation isn't total".

The court went on to state "there is plenty of medical and psychological literature concerning the ill effects of Solitary Confinement [of which Segregation is a variant]

In 1995; The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in Madrid v. Gomez 889 f.supp.1146 [A case so comprehensive in it's finding that the state of California didn't even bother to appeal] wrote:

   "Subjecting individuals to conditions [Solitary Confinement] that are "very likely" to render them psychotic or otherwise exacerbate a serious Mental Illness cannot be squared with evolving standards of humanity and decency, especially when certain aspects of those conditions appear to bear little relation to security concerns. A risk this grave      this shocking and indecent----simply has no place in civilized society".

In 2003 Human Rights Watch quoted a California Prison Psychiatrist in Human Rights Watch, Ill-equipped: U.S. prisons and offenders with Mental Illness 149-513 saying: "It's a standard psychiatric concept, if you put people in isolation [Solitary Confinement] they will go insane.......
most people in isolation will fall apart".

In 2005: in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Wilkinson v.Austin #04-495, also 545 U.S. 209.  A group of Psychologists and Psychiatrists filed a Amicus Curiae or Friend of the Court brief in support of Prisoners stating:


No Study of the effects of Solitary or Supermax-Like confinement that lasted longer than 60 days failed to find evidence of negative psychological effects".

Recently the fourth Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals which has Jurisdiction over the Commonwealth of Virginia and four other states determined in the 2015 case, Incumaa v. Stirling 791 f.3d 517 [2015] that:

"[Prisoner] had liberty interest in avoiding Solitary Confinement in security detention, as required for his claim that his placement in Solitary for 20 years violated [U.S.] Fourteenth Amendment Procedural Due Process: [Prisoner] was subject to near daily cavity and strip searches, he was confined to small cell for all sleeping and waking hours aside from 10 hours of activity outside the cell per month, he was denied educational, vocational, and therapy programs, [Prisoner] was socially isolated, and confinement was indefinite."

In light of the above cited, quoted and excerpted authorities which are but a sample of the exhaustively comprehensive legal and Mental Health findings and works on practice of using Long Term Administrative Segregation or Solitary Confinement, of which contrary to recent noises by the Virginia Politicos and officials at it's flagship primary Solitary Confinement Prison, Red Onion State Prison [ROSP] that Solitary Confinement in VADOC has been reformed and done away with.

The practice of Long Term Solitary Confinement is alive and well and ongoing at ROSP, where a number of Prisoners have been detained in Solitary Confinement for over 20 years and counting of which I am one, experiencing identical conditions as the Prisoner in the Incumaa case, since 1996.
It is to the above-referenced works as back drop, that the Mental Health Department of ROSP, a Prison where Solitary Confinement is the Primary Form of detention. Gave the terse response "NOTED" in it's professional capacity to my question on:

"What is the current contemporary consensus from Mental Health Professionals on Psychological and physiological effects of Long term Solitary Confinement or Administrative Segregation".  [see response from ROSP Mental Health Department: "NOTED".

What is to be made of the situation where ROSP officials are indifferent and unwilling to recognize that a practice of detention utilized as their Primary Operational Model----Solitary Confinement is distinguished by negative critique extending over a hundred years?

By William Thorpe
William Thorpe is detained at ROSP in Solitary Confinement since 1998 

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