Brandi Grissom at the Texas Tribune reports that an unfunded study of solitary confinement authorized by the Texas Legislature likely won't come off because nobody in state government is seeking "gifts, grants and donations" to make it happen, though one suspects grant funding would be available if they sought it. Said an advocate quoted in the story, “Texas has the second-largest administrative segregation population in the country, with over a quarter of the people in there with mental illness.”
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported (Jan. 5) that:
The New York City Department of Correction has stopped its controversial use of solitary confinement for mentally ill inmates who break the rules, a shift that jail officials are hailing as groundbreaking.The last of the prisoners being held in the Mental Health Assessment Unit for Infracted Inmates at Rikers Island jail were reassigned Dec. 31, and what is known as the punitive segregation program has been permanently closed, said Correction Commissioner Dora Schriro, an appointee of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. ...
The changes follow a September report commissioned by the City of New York Board of Correction, a watchdog agency with powers to order changes in the city's jail system. The report was critical of the practice of solitary confinement for mentally ill inmates.The report found that over the past six years the number of beds designated for punitive segregation in city jail increased by nearly 62% to 998 and that about 41% of those in segregation units were mentally ill. With the policy changes that number has dropped to 782 beds, and it is expected to decrease to about 650 by the end of June, said Ms. Schriro.Punitive segregation is still used for prisoners other than those with mental illness diagnoses, though Ms. Schriro said other recent changes have dropped the average confinement there by more than a third.
Even if we think prison should be a place where lawbreakers suffer for their misdeeds, why should we care [about solitary confinement]?MORE (Jan. 9): A judge in South Carolina has ordered the Department of Corrections in that state to take remedial action to protect mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement:
From a bottom-line perspective, because solitary is expensive.
From a practical perspective, because, as [Deputy Corrections Secretary Joe] Booker points out, nearly everyone gets out of prison. They come back to our towns and neighborhoods, and if they come back less socialized, their mental illness worse and their anger deepened, then we’ve only made one of our problems worse.
Circuit Judge Michael Baxley said in his ruling that the five-week trial of T.R., P.R., K.W., et al. v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, et al. was the most troubling of the 70,000 cases to come before him in the past 14 years."The evidence in this case has proved that inmates have died in the South Carolina Department of Corrections for lack of basic mental health care, and hundreds more remain substantially at risk for serious physical injury, mental decompensation, and profound, permanent mental illness. As a society, and as citizen jurors and judges make decisions that send people to prison, we have the reasonable expectation that those in prison – even though it is prison – will have their basic health needs met by the state that imprisons them. And this includes mental health. The evidence in this case has shown that expectation to be misplaced in many instances," Baxley wrote.