THE USE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN WASHINGTON STATE’S DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS IS TORTURE, AND IT MUST STOP.

The United Nations has called upon all countries to ban the solitary confinement as early as eight years ago (UN News 2011). In 2018, Gali Katznelson and J. Wesley Boyd concluded that Solitary Confinement was “Torture, Pure and Simple,” in an article by that subtitle in Psychology Today (Psychology Today 2018). They assert that “despite its barbarity,” that “the United States continues to place thousands of people, including individuals with mental illnesses and children, in solitary confinement, sometimes for decades” (Ibid). Katznelson and Boyd report that a study conducted by Dr. Stuart Grassian in 1988 evaluated fourteen people who were placed in Solitary Confinement and found the same symptoms across participants which included, “hypersensitivity to external stimuli; perceptual disturbances, hallucinations, and derealization experiences; affective disturbances, such as anxiety and panic attacks; difficulties with thinking, memory and concentration; the emergence of fantasies such as revenge and torture of the guards; paranoia; problems with impulse control; and a rapid decrease in symptoms immediately following release from isolation” (Ibid). Katznelson and Boyd warn that the “psychological effects of isolation last long after individuals are removed from isolation,” noting that they “experience anxiety and depression, and preferred to remain in confined spaces” (Ibid). If left untreated, they warn, these experiences lead to suicide and conclude that “continuing to place these individuals in solitary confinement is both inhumane and unethical” (Ibid). The psychologists affirm that as solitary confinement “causes such severe psychological damage that is tantamount to torture,” it must be stopped.

            On Monday, October 7, 2019, several Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) prisoners exercised a non-violent hunger strike at Clallum Bay Correctional Center (CBCC), a facility tucked away on the Penninsula of Washington State. According to their list of demands, they saw their hunger strike as “serious constructive action” that sought to “rectify the prison environment,” and assured both the DOC and CBCC that hunger strike was “a non-violent demonstration” (CBCC Hunger Strike 2019). Acting as the CBCC Prison Population Representatives, these prisoners outlined a six-point list of demands that included: 1. Better Food; 2. the end of the frivolous use of lock-downs by CBCC; 3. A pay increase equivalent to the inflation of the cost of services; 4. the abolition of the Gang Violence Reduction/Forbidden 3 Policy that segregates inmates by ethnicity; 5. for DOC to hold vendors accountable for timely service (i.e. J-Pay, GTL, Union Supply Direct); and 6. Any demands brought up by the representatives in their negotiations (Ibid).

            On Wednesday, October 9, 2019, CBCC and the DOC in retaliation for the hunger strike rounded up 37 CBCC prisoners at 4:00am, loaded them onto a bus, and shipped them across Washington State to place them in Solitary Confinement. On Friday, October 11, 2019, the prisoners were informed that they were under investigation by the DOC with a court date set for November 14, 2019. That means that these prisoners could possibly spend at least 38 days in solitary confinement for having exercised a non-violent collective action.

            Those of us on the outside who have forged relationships with these young men and their families call upon the public to demand that Washington State cease the use of Solitary Confinement on the grounds that it is inhumane and unethical. We call upon the public to demand that the Department of Corrections remedy their poor choice to retaliate against 37 young men for exercising a non-violent demonstration that sought to create better communication and improve the conditions of the prison environment. The DOC can start by removing the young men from Solitary Confinement and begin to dialogue with the selected CBCC Prison Population Representatives.

CALL TO ACTION:

  1. Contact Governor Inslee to demand an end to the use of Solitary Confinement in Washington State by the Department of Corrections:

Jay Inslee (WA State Governor) 360-902-4111; jay.inslee@gov.wa.gov

2. Contact the Department of Corrections to release the CBCC 37 from Solitary Confinement and to begin a productive dialogue with the CBCC Prison Population Representatives:

  • Stephen Sinclair (Director) 360-725-8810; 360-725-8213; sdsinclair@doc1.wa.gov
  • Janelle Guthrie (Director of Communications) 360-725-8737; doccorrespondenceunit@doc1.wa.gov
  • Robert Herzog (Assistant Secretary) 360-725-8226; rlherzog@doc1.wa.gov
  • Donald Holbrook (Walla Walla Superintendent) 509-526-6300; drholbrook@doc1.wa.gov
  • Jeri Boe (Clallam Bay Superintendent) 360-963-3204; jlboe@doc1.wa.gov

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