Home > civil liberties, criminal justice, law > “Prisoners held in solitary confinement in Florida state prisons can be there for months on end”

“Prisoners held in solitary confinement in Florida state prisons can be there for months on end”

Image via Mother Jones

Image via Mother Jones

That is what the ACLU told the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights via submitted testimony for a hearing on solitary confinement in the Americas. The full scope of the unseemly practice as used in my home state of Florida:

Currently, the sad state of affairs in Florida serves as a prime example of the U.S.’s poor human rights record on solitary confinement.

Florida’s state prison population is the third largest in the United States, with a higher incarceration rate than any country in Central or South America. Florida incarcerates 100,272 people in its 60 state prisons and supervises almost 115,000 offenders on community supervision. Florida sends  more young people under age 18 to adult state prisons than any other state in the nation.

Prisoners held in solitary confinement in Florida state prisons can be there for months on end. They are detained in nearly complete isolation, entitled to leave their cell three times per week to take a shower, and, only after thirty days, an additional three hours per week to exercise. Children in state prison may be subjected to solitary confinement and endure long periods without exercise, educational instruction, contact with their families or any rehabilitative programs and services.

Although children and mentally ill prisoners are particularly susceptible to the devastating physical and psychological effects of total isolation, they are dramatically overrepresented in solitary confinement. Neither Florida law nor its correctional regulations applies solitary confinement any differently to children or those who are seriously mentally ill, as compared to other prisoners, demonstrating a willful blindness to the particular vulnerability of these populations. In recognition of these practices, international bodies are increasingly investigating the treatment of incarcerated juveniles in the U.S.

The systemic isolation of vulnerable prisoners bucks the emerging consensus that extended solitary confinement violates the international prohibition on cruel and inhumane treatment. By reporting on solitary confinement in the Americas, the IACHR will have an opportunity to shine a light on how the U.S. has deviated from international human rights norms.

All hope is not lost though: “If Florida passes SB 812, which was introduced by State Senator Gibson in February, the state would go from being one of worst violators to the state with strongest protections against harmful solitary confinement for young people in adult jails and prisons.” Lets hope so.

  1. Karen Hayes
    May 16, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    I was the primary mental health specialist for female inmates in confinement for 5 years. I cannot believe that in this day in time and in The United States of America this could continue to be legal. I have read the laws of confinement in other states where the inmates go out for an hour or two daily however in the State of Florida as stated on this very page they are only permitted to come out to shower 3 x per week and only after 30 days are they permitted to go out for exercise. Also stated on this page is the fact that they may spend months in confinement. For those of you who have never been in a prison let alone the “special housing unit” aka confinement I am confident no matter what your position is on inmate care you would find even a few days inhumane let alone weeks or months. In addition to the stress of being caged they suffer from constant threats from the officers threatening to give them another disciplinary report which could result in extending their stay. While this is supposedly to control them and keep them obedient it has the adverse reaction. I would often be called for a psychological emergency following these situations. These threats are often used by officers who have succumbed to their dungeon like surroundings and abuse their authority and often to inmates who are not necessarily disobedient but perhaps just not liked. It is truly disgusting and inhumane. I urge Governor Scott to visit a special housing unit and see where he stands on human rights.


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