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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Amnesty International Report Blasts Conditions in Arizona’s Prisons

“Cruel Isolation”: Amnesty International Report Blasts Conditions in Arizona’s Prisons
by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

A report just released by Amnesty International documents and denounces conditons in Arizona's state prisons, including their gross overuse of long-term solitary confinement. A cogent summary of the report's findings appears this morning in the Arizona Republic, in an article by Ortega (who has written before about Arizona's brutal prisons and jails):

Arizona's state prisons overuse solitary confinement in cruel, inhumane and illegal ways, particularly for mentally ill prisoners and juveniles as young as 14, the human-rights group Amnesty International charges in a report to be released today.

According to the report, which is to be delivered to the governor and state lawmakers, Arizona prisons use solitary confinement as a punishment more than most other states or the federal government.

The group found that some inmates are held in isolation for months and sometimes years, and it called on the state to use the practice only as a last resort and only for a short duration.

In addition, it asked that the practice not be used against children or people who are mentally ill or have behavioral disabilities. The group also called on state officials to improve conditions for prisoners in solitary confinement and to act to reduce the high number of suicides in Arizona's prisons.

Arizona Department of Corrections officials said they had not read the report Monday and were unable to comment.

According to the DOC, 3,130 inmates, or 8 percent of the state prison population, were being held in the highest-security, maximum-custody units as of Friday, and most were confined alone.

Although maximum-security inmates include those who are violent and may represent a threat to other inmates or staff, Amnesty noted that Arizona's own figures show that 35 percent of inmates in maximum security were committed for non-violent crimes.

Amnesty International's report cited sources who said prisoners are regularly assigned to maximum security for relatively minor rule violations or disruptive behavior, often because they have mental-health or behavioral problems.

The report noted cases of Arizona inmates who have been in solitary confinement continuously for 15 years. Amnesty said that various international human-rights treaties and experts, including the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on Torture, have called on states to limit the use of solitary confinement to exceptional circumstances, for short periods and to prohibit solitary confinement of children 17 and younger.

Amnesty's report found that 14 children 14 to 17 years old had been held in maximum custody at the Rincon unit in the Tucson state prison, under conditions similar to those of adults: 22 to 24 hours a day in their cells, limited exercise alone in a small cage and with no recreational activities.

Because children and adolescents are not fully developed physically and emotionally, they are less equipped to tolerate the effects of isolation, according to studies cited in the report.

http://solitarywatch.com/2012/04/03/cruel-isolation-amnesty-international-report-blasts-conditions-in-arizonas-prisons/

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