Wednesday, 7 December 2011
1983 - Two correctional officers at a Marion, Ill., prison are murdered by inmates in two separate incidents on the same day. The warden at the time puts the prison in what he calls "permanent lockdown." It is the first prison in the country to adopt 23-hour-a-day cell isolation and no communal yard time for all inmates. Inmates are no longer allowed to work, attend educational programs, or eat in a cafeteria. Within a few years, several other states also adopt permanent lockdown at existing facilities.
1989 - California builds Pelican Bay, a new prison built solely to house inmates in isolation. By most accounts, it is the first Supermax facility in the country. There is no need to build a yard, cafeteria, classrooms or shops. Inmates spend 22 1/2 hours a day inside an 8-by-10-foot cell. The other 1 1/2 hours are spent alone in a small concrete exercise pen.
1990s - The building boom of Supermax or control-unit prisons begins. Oregon, Mississippi, Indiana, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin and a dozen other states all build new, free-standing, isolation units.
1994 - The U.S. Bureau of Prisons builds ADX Florence, the federal government's first and only Supermax facility, in Florence, Colo. It's known popularly as the "Alcatraz of the Rockies." It currently houses 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, Unibomber Ted Kaczynski, former FBI agent and convicted spy Robert Hanssen, Olympic Park and abortion-clinic bomber Eric Rudolph, and many others.
1995 - A federal judge finds conditions at Pelican Bay in California "may well hover on the edge of what is humanly tolerable" (Madrid v. Gomez). But he rules that there is no constitutional basis for the courts to shut down the unit or to alter it substantially. He says the court must defer to the states about how best to incarcerate offenders.
1999 - A report by the Department of Justice finds that more than 30 states are operating a Supermax-type facility with 23-hours-a-day lockdown and long-term isolation. The study finds that some states put 0.5 percent of their total inmates in this kind of facility, while other states lock up more than 20 percent of their inmates this way.
2005 - Daniel P. Mears, an associate professor at Florida State University, conducts a nationwide study and finds there are now 40 states operating Supermax or control-unit prisons, which collectively hold more than 25,000 U.S. prisoners.
When is the US going to wake up an realize this cruel and unusual punishment.
Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled against this class action suit. Stating that Post Conviction Law prevents them from this action. They need to file this suit separately with the Mississippi Supreme Court.
My fear is this will be ruled individually as isolated incidences, in the first few lawsuits. There was strength in a class action suit. The Magnolia Bar Association even wrote a friendly letter to the court supportig this action. Many of these men and woman are in there final appeals. One, will be getting a date yet this month.
In the suit that was initially filed, it asked for remedies for the harm caused. Three of these men included in the suit have already been executed. Obviously there is no cure for the damages Gerald Holland, Benny Stevens, and Rodney Gray sustained. Please lets ensure the remaining 13 do receive remedies by the state. The state has failed to do as promised, and provide adequate representation before execution.
I would like everyone to Please email and call the NAACP, and the Magnolia Bar Association. Ask for there continued support for these individuals.
Carshena L. Bailey Esq.
President Magnolia Bar Associaton
P.O. Box 951
Jackson, Ms. 39205
Miss. Supreme Court dismisses death row inmates' suit claiming inadequate legal counsel
www.wreg.com. A Challenge to Post-Conviction Indigent Defense in Mississippi
This next article was in the Clarion not long after the suit was filed.
Today's Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports, "State's legal help for death row inmates called failure," by Jimmie E. Gates.
Mississippi consistently has appointed unqualified, underfunded and overburdened attorneys to represent death row inmates in their appeals, a petit...ion filed Monday with the state Supreme Court says.
The brief was filed on behalf of 15 death row inmates challenging the systemwide failure to provide them with competent counsel during their appeals after conviction.
The death row inmates are: Steve Knox, Michelle Byrom, Blayde Grayson, Benny Joe Stevens, Jan Michael Brawner, Rodney Gray, Jeffrey Harvard, Richard Jordan, Thong Le, Willie Manning, William Mitchell, Stephen Powers, Larry Matthew Puckett, Gary Carl Simmons and Alan Dale Walker.
"The remedies sought ... are to correct the harm they suffered as a result of the state's failure to do what it promised to do: provide them with competent and conscientious counsel before executing them," according to the 51-page document filed by Jackson attorney Jim Craig and attorneys from Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.
An injunction is sought to ensure that all prisoners sentenced to die receive competent and conscientious counsel for future proceedings.
In May, a lawsuit was filed in Hinds County Chancery Court on behalf of 16 death row inmates, including Gerald James Holland, who was facing execution.
Chancery Court Judge William Singletary dismissed the suit, citing lack of jurisdiction, and Holland was executed days later.
Court papers filed with the state high court argue that the Chancery Court erred in its decision.
Glen Swartzfager, director of the Office of Capital Post Conviction Counsel, has acknowledged in court papers that some death row inmates appeals weren't adequately represented during previous administrations.
Swartzfager, who became director in 2008, was out of the office Monday and unavailable for comment.
The office was created in 2000. From the inception of the Office of Capital Post Conviction Counsel, the state set out to destroy the office's ability to provide competent and conscientious representation, the lawsuit says.
The appeal says the state:
# Failed to provide essential staff.
# Failed to provide critical funding.
# Appointed the office to represent more death-sentenced prisoners than it could competently and ethically represent at one time.
# Interfered with the performance of the duties of the director and the staff of the office.
# Failed to take corrective action once it became obvious that the office was failing to provide competent and conscientious counsel.
Medical evidence has shown that long-term solitary confinement is a form of torture. Dr Joost J den Otter, Medical Director at the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), adds that while there is no doubt about the damage caused by long periods of isolation, solitary confinement for a short period may also cause psychological harm.
Dr den Otter highlights the fact that many qualitative and quantitative scientific studies have documented how solitary confinement in prison has damaging health effects. He asserts that the scientific debate on solitary confinement as a method of torture has been settled for many years, but that it seems there is still confusion among policy makers, prison authorities, and the general public.
A recent commentary published by the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law about solitary confinement and mental illness in U.S. Prisons, the authors, Jeffrey L. Metzner and Jamie Fellner, support Dr den Otter’s judgment.
“Isolation can be psychologically harmful to any prisoner, with the nature and severity of the impact depending on the individual, the duration of confinement, and particular conditions (e.g., access to natural light, books, or radio). Psychological effects can include anxiety, depression, anger, cognitive disturbances, perceptual distortions, obsessive thoughts, paranoia, and psychosis”.
In August 2010, Physicians for Human Rights published a report (Experiments in Torture) which added to the growing body of evidence that solitary confinement causes psychological harm consistent with torture. In an interview with ‘Life’s Little Mysteries’, Dr Scott Allen, one of the authors of the paper, said that solitary confinement “can lead to anxiety, depression, certainly disorientation, [and] it can even lead to thought disorders including psychotic thoughts.” He added "The consequences can be significant."
This backs up researcher Peter Scharff Smith, of The Danish Institute for Human Rights, who years ago stated that “solitary confinement reduces meaningful social contact to an absolute minimum: a level of social and psychological stimulus that many individuals will experience as insufficient to remain reasonably healthy and relatively well functioning”.
For sources and more information:
Solitary Confinement and Mental Illness in U.S. Prisons: A Challenge for Medical Ethics
Is Suspected Wikileaks Source's Solitary Confinement Torture?
Solitary confinement - An introduction to The Istanbul Statement on the Use and Effects of Solitary Confinement