Sweltering doesn’t even describe it. This week, more than a third of the U.S. population was under excessive heat warnings and heat advisories. Dozens of major cities and states have set new temperature records in recent weeks, including Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which logged its hottest June ever. Less than an hour from the city is Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known as Angola prison, where the state set up a temporary youth jail last fall, in a building that once housed adults awaiting execution. A federal court filing this week from the Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union alleges that the youth at Angola face inhumane conditions, in large part because they are regularly kept in non-airconditioned cells for up to 72 hours.
Solitary confinement is the practice of isolating a prisoner from all human contact for an extended period of time. It is often used as a form of punishment or to control behavior, but it can have serious negative effects on mental health. Most countries around the world limit the time that a prisoner can spend in solitary to 15 days. The United States doesn’t. There are scores of prisoners across the U.S. who have been in solitary for years and, in some cases, decades. It should be clear to everybody — the courts, the states, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons — that solitary only worsens already bad situations. It shouldn’t be in use.
Khader Adnan was not a ‘terrorist’ with ‘Israeli blood on his hands,’ as pro-Israeli propagandists have been repeating in the news and on social media. If the former Palestinian prisoner, who died in his Israeli prison cell following 87 days of an uninterrupted hunger strike, was indeed directly involved in armed resistance, the story would have had a completely different ending. Armed Palestinian resistors are either assassinated or detained and tried by Israeli military courts to spend prolonged sentences in Israeli prisons, following brief trials that lack fairness or due process. Adnan was a charismatic leader but not an actual fighter by the strict definition of the word.
On Tuesday morning, the Palestinian hunger striker and political activist, Sheikh Khader Adnan, died inside the Ramleh prison clinic. Since February 5 of this year, Adnan, 44, has been on hunger strike protesting his imprisonment by Israel, which has been targeting and harassing the Palestinian political figure and advocate for resistance over the past decade. Adnan was the veteran of two previous hunger strikes before his most recent one and was unlawfully imprisoned by the Israeli authorities without charge or trial several times in the past decade. Adnan’s latest arrest was due to his affiliation with the militant Palestinian resistance group, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), whose armed wing, Saraya al-Quds, is part of the umbrella faction of the Jenin Brigade — the armed resistance group operating out of Jenin refugee camp.
A group of human rights attorneys have filed a joint submission urging the United Nations to review abusive solitary confinement practices used in the U.S. against Black Americans. The submission, which comes ahead of U.N. officials’ April trip to the U.S. to review issues related to racial justice and equality in law enforcement, details the physical and mental health repercussions of solitary confinement. The visit is part of a four-point agenda to end systemic racism and human rights violations by law enforcement against Africans and people of African descent. It comes after the Biden administration extended an invitation to the U.N. in December.
Conversations with Palestinians both young and old almost always end with them saying to me, “you [a Jewish Israeli] can say these things, but if we were to say them we would be excluded from all spaces and we would be called anti-semitic.” A young Palestinian interning in Washington, D.C. told me she felt that she needed an Israeli beside her to give her legitimacy. Not in her own eyes, but in the eyes of the D.C. establishment. Sadly, she is probably correct; in the anti-Arab, and particularly anti-Palestinian atmosphere in Washington, this is very likely true.
By law, people in prison have a right to get the health care they need. In the late 1970s, the U.S. Supreme Court decision Estelle v Gamble set the standard for medical rights of prisoners. But prison authorities are being criminally negligent in not providing adequate health care to incarcerated people. As the jailed population ages, 40% have chronic health conditions. The cost of providing health care has skyrocketed and local, state and federal governments have contracted with for-profit prison health care companies as a way of tightening their budgets. Private companies give a per diem rate for basic and specialty care – which would be lower if services were publicly provided. The negotiated per diem rate creates a huge profit incentive.
A court in the city of Manzini granted bail to Colani Maseko, the president of Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) on Friday, February 4. The student leader had been arrested on January 31 and charged with sedition. His bail came a day after the SNUS marched to the Manzini regional police headquarters and held a demonstration on February 3. A cross section of Swaziland’s pro-democracy forces, including the banned political parties, trade unions, and youth organizations, attended the action. Outside the police headquarters, protesters at the demonstration openly threatened to render the kingdom “ungovernable” until the release of Maseko and all other political prisoners of Africa’s last absolute monarchy.
Never mind that he shouldn’t be in a federal prison at all. Leonard Peltier, the Native American rights activist whom the FBI put behind bars decades ago without any evidence that he committed a crime, tells HuffPost that his facility’s prolonged COVID-19 lockdowns and failure to provide at least some inmates with booster shots has left him ― and likely others ― unbearably isolated and preparing for death. “I’m in hell,” Peltier said in a Friday statement, “and there is no way to deal with it but to take it as long as you can.” Peltier, who is 77 and has serious health problems including diabetes and an abdominal aortic aneurysm, said “fear and stress” from the prison’s intense coronavirus lockdowns are taking a toll on everyone, including staff.
Michael Carvajal, director of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons (BOP), resigned in disgrace last week after being overwhelmed by scandals, none of which were necessarily of his doing so much as they were a result of his unwillingness or inability to make changes to the Justice Department’s largest and best-funded bureau. The scandals—and his resignation—reinforce the conventional wisdom that the BOP is broken and must be overhauled dramatically. The Associated Press reported that Carvajal, a Trump appointee, was forced to resign after more than 100 BOP employees had been arrested for or convicted of crimes during his short two-year tenure. The employees were prosecuted for crimes ranging from smuggling drugs and cell phones into prisons to sell to prisoners, to theft, to a warden raping a prisoner.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has released a lot of new data over the past few weeks that help us finally see — both nationally and state-by-state — how policy choices made in the first year of the pandemic impacted correctional populations. Unsurprisingly, the numbers document the tragedy of thousands of lives lost behind bars, and evidence of some of the policy decisions that contributed to the death toll. Drilling down, we also see a (very) few reasons to be hopeful and, for those of us paying close attention, a few notable improvements in what the BJS is able to collect and how they report it. Above all, we see how quickly things can change — for better or for worse — when under pressure, and discuss some of the issues and policy choices these data tell us to watch out for.
Israel agreed on Thursday to release a hunger-striking prisoner in four months after lengthy negotiations. Miqdad Qawasmeh suspended his hunger strike on Thursday after refusing food for 113 days to protest his detention without charge or trial after Israel agreed to release him in February 2022. His victory came after lengthy and arduous negotiations between the leadership of the Hamas prisoners’ group and Israeli authorities. The 24-year-old was the youngest of six Palestinian men who have been refusing food for weeks and months in protest of Israel’s detention of them without charge or trial. Five others are still fighting for their freedom on empty stomachs.
In Megiddo prison, Ramon prison, and the Negev desert prison, Palestinian political prisoners burned their rooms in resistance to the prison administration’s attempt to transfer the prisoners affiliated with Islamic Jihad. The Handala Center for Prisoners and Former Prisoners in occupied Palestine reported that 7 rooms in Megiddo prison, 4 rooms in the Negev prison and 4 rooms in sections 4 and 5 of Ramon prison have been burned, and that the prisoners’ movement leadership has affirmed that any section that is invaded to transfer detainees will be met with fire. Palestinians throughout occupied Palestine are rallying in support of the six self-liberated prisoners, whose “Freedom Tunnel,” dug through lengthy months of perseverance with only kitchen utensils for tools, has become a symbol of hope for freedom as well as an example that the technological and military might of the Israeli colonial power has been unable to suppress Palestinian resistance.
The story of Marshall “Eddie” Conway, a military veteran and former Black Panther who was imprisoned for 43 years for a crime he didn’t commit, is one that gets to the heart of systemic racism in the United States. Despite grueling conditions, in prison Conway pursued three college degrees, and was considered an “exemplary” prisoner for starting a prison literacy program and organizing the prison library. On the other hand, his efforts to organize a union among his fellow convict laborers was crushed by the authorities. After being released in 2014 following an appellate court judgment that his jury had been given improper instructions, Conway has become executive producer of The Real News Network (TRNN), a progressive media organization based in Baltimore, MD, with his own show, “Rattling the Bars” that focuses on the many social justice issues that intersect with mass incarceration in the U.S.
Marshood explained that the arrests were not confined to those demonstrating, but also to those who were aiming to document the repression: Mass waves of arrests were done, either in protests or even to people who were just passing by, people were arrested from their cars. People were arrested from their homes. Even those who were documenting arrests got arrested.[These arrests] included very brutal and violent physical and mental assaults on the detainees. Whether inside the police cars or inside the police station. A report released in June by Israeli human rights organisation Adalah documented the use of torture against Palestinian-Israelis who were arrested after the uprising.