October 9, 2009

Panel: Solitary confinement as human rights abuse

For you readers on the West Coast, Stanford Law School is holding a provocative conference on Oct. 16-17 entitled "Shaking the Foundations: The West Coast Conference on Progressive Lawyering." One Saturday afternoon panel caught my eye, both because of the topic and the speakers:

Solitary Confinement in America's Prisons: A Human Rights Abuse?

Having worked in a segregation housing unit, I have seen the mental health consequences of prolonged solitary confinement, especially on the psyches of prisoners who are already mentally ill, up close and personal. Out of sight, out of mind -- many in the public are unaware of the extent to which solitary confinement is being used routinely in prisons these days. So, it's good to see this topic getting some critical attention.

The speakers are impressive:
  • Joan Petersilia, one of the foremost prison researchers around and now a law professor at Stanford
  • Terry Kupers, a forensic psychiatrist and professor at the Wright Institute who wrote Prison Madness, a book about incarceration and mental health
  • J. Clark Kelso, Professor of Law & Senior Counsel to the Capital Center for Government Law and Policy, University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law
Here is the panel description:
One in one hundred Americans are currently incarcerated, and a growing number of those incarcerated are held in conditions of solitary confinement. In Supermax prisons, administrative segregation units, and even Guantanamo Bay, prisoners spend 22 or 23 hours of every day in isolation, for weeks, months or years. This panel will discuss the expanded use of solitary confinement in the American prison system and its effects on prisoners' health and recidivism. Through this discussion, panelists will ask: Is the use of solitary confinement cruel and unusual punishment? Is it a human rights violation? And if so, what can be done?
The presentation is Saturday, October 17, from 3:45-5:15 p.m. More information, registration, and directions are HERE.

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