The Daily Beast
Todd Ashker is one of the leaders of the Pelican Bay hunger strikers and the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit Ashker v. Governor of California. Sometime between 2008 and 2009, Ashker managed to get his hands on “Nothing But an Unfinished Song: Bobby Sands, the Irish Hunger Striker Who Inspired a Generation." What does a book have to do with the movement that ended indefinite solitary confinement in California?
It hardly bears repeating that people of color are incarcerated in staggering numbers. But a new study authored by health officials with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) shows that racial disparities in jail run far deeper: black and Hispanic inmates are vastly more likely to be punished with solitary confinement than their white counterparts, and less likely to receive diagnoses of mental illness.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Through a request under South Carolina’s Freedom of Information Act, EFF found that, over the last three years, prison officials have brought more than 400 disciplinary cases for “social networking”—almost always for using Facebook. The offenses come with heavy penalties. In 16 cases, inmates were sentenced to more than a decade in what’s called disciplinary detention, with at least one inmate receiving more than 37 years in isolation.
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Solitary is both ineffective as a rehabilitation technique and indelibly harmful to the mental health. Researchers argue that just these hints of the damage wrought by solitary confinement—and the way it seems to make prisoners less-equipped to re-enter society after their sentence—indicate that it falls within a category of discipline banned by the eight amendment: cruel and unusual punishment.
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