Sunday, November 01, 2015

Texas wouldn't comply with the 'Mandela Rules' on solitary - should it?

Grits this morning learned that last month new United Nations standards on solitary confinement and treatment of prisoners dubbed "the Mandela Rules" were adopted by the General Assembly. See here, here, here, and here.

Here are the rules themselves. Though non-binding (and a lucky thing, since Texas doesn't come close to complying), they prohibit indefinite solitary confinement, like Texas uses for gang members, as well as "prolonged" solitary confinement, defined as more than 15 days. (Texas has been known to utilize solitary for a bit longer than that.) The new standards insist that solitary "shall be used only in exceptional cases as a last resort for as short a time as possible and subject to independent review."

Readers may recall that the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee has an interim charge related to reentry following solitary confinement (which in Texas is called administrative segregation). They're supposed to study the issue and make recommendations to the 85th Legislature in 2017. While the UN's imprimatur may be decidedly unhelpful in Texas (think Jade Helm), the Mandela Rules show these issues are being reconsidered in many different quarters at this particular moment in history. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick assigned an interim charge on ad seg in Texas not because he's following the UN's lead; it's that the situation has become so critical it can no longer be ignored either by state leaders or at the global level.

Related Grits posts:


CS McClellan/Catana said...

I keep reading articles and posts about the evils of solitary confinement. What is never mentioned is that Texas and several other states mandate automatic solitary for all death row inmates. These men and women have been rendered completely invisble, as if their suffering doesn't matter. The media does its best to convince the public that anyone convicted of a capital crime is a fearsome beast who deserves nothing better than death, and the states ensure that they're treated like beasts.

Harry Homeless said...

"I tell you, whatever you did unto one of the least of these, you did unto Me." Yeah, we're a real Christian nation.

PAPA said...

No Human should be caged like an animal. It is long past due for Solitary Confinement to become an issue when it is releasing humans that have been destroyed mentally.

Anonymous said...

Harry Homeless you'r breakin my heart. NOT! Your exegesis of Matt.18:6 is wrong since it deals with someone who tries to undermine the faith of young believers in Jesus Christ, or one who seeks to lead a child into sin or unbelief.

Lucas Ruric Coe is serving life without parole for the brutal rape and murder of
4yr. old Emma Thompson on 6-27-2009, her mother recieved 20yrs. for depraved indiffernce.

I'm not up on prison terms but his information says he cannot have visitors and I only hope that means he is in solitary confinement, if that is so, that monster is right where he deserves to be.

It would be better as the passage goes on to say that a millstone were hung around Coe's neck and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Nah, if he is in solitary that's right where he deserves to be!

I used to resent as a taxpayer that my hard earned dollars were used for his up-keep but I have changed my mind and gladly support his imprisonment and I hope he suffers every day as he made poor little Emma suffer.

Unknown said...

Keeping death row inmates in solitary has always been a horrid farce - some of those men are troublesome inmates and need extra restrictions, others are not and if assessed using normal risk assessment instruments, could easily be in general population. Missouri has "mainlined" its death row inmates for years, without particularly difficulty. So what goes on in the Polunsky Unit is largely of symbolic, media value for the State of Texas, rather than related to any genuine security concern.

Peter.Marana said...

I would feel much better about this if a formal risk assessment was done as part of the process in deciding who receives solitary confinement. There should be a defined process and standards for who is confined this way.

This is not just about solitary confinement though, Texas has a bloated prison population that is 45% higher that the average of the other 49 states. That's roughly 50,000 inmates costing taxpayers $1.25 billion in wasted resources. And this population has not gone down even after all the criminal justice reform from a few years ago. You would have lower recidivism if less money was spent on incarceration and more on education (GED,technical and college), re-entry and post-release support. Texas needs to get out of the 1950's.