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Guest MINDSETTER™  Laufton Longo: Solitary Confinement is Torture

Thursday, April 21, 2016

 

The room is 8 feet by 10 feet. Smaller than most bathrooms. There is no furniture besides a bed and a small desk. A thin mattress placed on a steel frame. There’s a “window” but it’s so heavily barricaded you can hardly call it that, light almost never comes through. There are dozens of reasons why you could have been placed in the room. Maybe you attacked a guard, maybe they found a joint, or maybe you were just too gay or too loud. It doesn’t matter any more. You pass the time by reading books. A bible or a GED study guide. Maybe one day they take them away. You acted up after all. You have no watch. You aren't allowed one. Days become both impossible to count and immeasurably valuable. You are told you are entitled to one hour of recreation a day, but only if you ask for it. Maybe the guards don't tell you when they will be coming by with the signup sheet. They walk by in the morning, their hands muting the keys on their waist. Maybe one day they take the mattress away leaving only the metal frame behind. Sometimes they blast a fan for hours on end. You try to contort your own body to stay warm, it doesn’t work. Sometimes a mental health specialist comes to visit you after 90 days to ask if you're fine; to see if you have "recovered". You never have. As you try to sleep a guard kicks the door. After all you deserve it. The meaning of a day slips away. You can hear the people around you slipping away as well. You sit there for days, months, maybe even years.

 Eventually they let you out. You leave the room, you leave the prison. You are expected to do all of the things people your age are doing. Get an apartment, find a job, join your community. Do it all without talking about the room, do it all without thinking about the room. No special allowances or help are given. You are on your own. How do you explain to them that while other kids were learning how to use smart phones or to drive you were staring at a wall? How do you explain to them that you can't work a register because seeing that many people in a room makes you hyperventilate?

 To expect someone to go through this and come out fine is beyond absurd. 

The stories above are not hypotheticals. They all come from testimony shared by prisoners who served time right here in our state. The Young Dems Rhode Island support the current legislation to ban solitary confinement for those under 21 for that exact reason. What happens after someone is released? What comes next? In an economy that is perhaps hardest on our youngest residents we should be attempting to break down barriers to success not strengthening them. The psychological and physical damage that results from solitary confinement is clear and well documented. Its effect is felt for the rest of a life. It’s why the UN has labelled solitary confinement that lasts for more than fifteen days as torture. It’s why President Obama has come out against it. It’s why those who serve time in solitary confinement have much higher recidivism rates. To subject anyone to this is cruel, to do it to someone just starting out in life, regardless of their mistake, is inhumane. We should do everything we can to ensure that young offenders are rehabilitated not ensure they relapse. We need them to leave prison and help build the future economy of this state. We gain nothing from manufacturing criminals. When they leave prison we should give them the best chance to find success. For their sake and for ours. 

YDRI urges the Senate and House to pass the bills banning solitary confinement and commends Rep. Regunberg and Sen. Metts for their work on this issue. 

 

Laufton Longo is a resident of Providence and the Vice President of YDRI

 

Related Slideshow: Prison Rape in RI

Below are figures on the number of reported rapes in Rhode Island’s state prison system over the past three years. Data is broken down by facility and year. Each slide lists the formal facility name when available, the current population, the total number of rape cases that were reported and investigated in that facility, and the breakdown of how many of those cases were substantiated and how many were not confirmed. Facilities are listed in order of year, starting with the oldest. The last slide lists the total number of cases across all years for all facilities. Data were provided by the Rhode Island Department of Corrections in response to a public records request. 

Prev Next

Women’s Prison in 2012

Population: 154

Rape Cases Investigated: NA*

# Unconfirmed: NA*

# Confirmed: 1

Note: There are three buildings that house female prisoners. Minimum security and work-release inmates are in the Bernadette Building. The new Gloria McDonald facility is for female offenders awaiting trial and for those in medium security. The facilities have a current combined inmate population of 154. Rhode Island Department of Corrections data did not specify in which facility the confirmed rape case occurred. 

*Data on total cases and number unconfirmed was not available for each facility for 2012. 

Prev Next

Intake Center in 2012

Anthony P. Travisono Intake Service Center

Population: 1,030

Rape Cases Investigated: NA*

# Unconfirmed: NA*

# Confirmed: 1

*Data on total cases and number unconfirmed was not available for each facility for 2012.

Prev Next

Minimum Security in 2012

Population: 407

Rape Cases Investigated: NA*

# Unonfirmed: NA*

# Confirmed: 1

*Data on total cases and number unconfirmed was not available for each facility for 2012.

Prev Next

Women's Prison in 2013

Population: 154

Rape Cases Investigated: 1

# Unconfirmed: 1

# Confirmed: 0

Note: There are three buildings that house female prisoners. Minimum security and work-release inmates are in the Bernadette Building. The new Gloria McDonald facility is for female offenders awaiting trial and for those in medium security. The facilities have a current combined inmate population of 154. Rhode Island Department of Corrections data did not specify in which facility the alleged rape case occurred. 

Prev Next

Intake Center in 2013

Anthony P. Travisono Intake Service Center

Population: 1,030

Rape Cases Investigated: 4

# Unconfirmed: 3

# Confirmed: 1

Prev Next

Minimum Security in 2013

Population: 407

Rape Cases Investigated: 1

# Unconfirmed: 0

# Confirmed: 1

Prev Next

Medium Security in 2013

John J. Moran Medium Security Facility

Population: 1,047

Rape Cases Investigated: 2

# Unconfirmed: 1

# Confirmed: 1

Prev Next

Intake Center in 2014

Anthony P. Travisono Intake Service Center

Population: 1,030

Rape Cases Investigated: 3

# Substantiated: 2

# Unconfirmed: 1

Prev Next

Medium Security in 2014

John J. Moran Medium Security Facility

Population: 1,047

Rape Cases Investigated: 4

# Unconfirmed: 2

# Confirmed: 2

Prev Next

Total All Facilities

Years: 2012 to 2014

Total Cases

# Investigated: 28

# Unconfirmed: 20 

# Confirmed: 8

 
 

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