IAHR Newsletter-March 29, 2017

IAHR Newsletter-March 29, 2017

In this issue of the IAHR Newsletter, you will find a call to action, a report on Bradley Maxwell, a program commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s address at Riverside Church in New York, and a report from the Prison Policy Initiative on mass incarceration in the U.S. in 2017.

Sign a Petition to Release Kevin Snodgrass from Solitary Confinement in Virginia

Bradley Maxwell Transferred out of Solitary Confinement in Virginia

Program Commemorating The 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” Speech

Prison Policy Initiative: Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017

  Sign a Petition to Release Kevin Snodgrass from Solitary Confinement in Virginia 

Kevin Snodgrass has been in solitary confinement at Red Onion State prison in Virginia since 2013. Nobody will give him or his family a clear answer why. IAHR needs your help to get answers and help restore Kevin’s basic human rights.

Kevin’s parents are veterans of the U.S. military and are proud of their military service. They are even prouder parents. When Kevin was wrongfully targeted and convicted of a crime they believe he did not commit, it was the worst day of their lives. “But we knew Kevin was innocent, and we started on a journey to clear his name.”  

Things got worse when Kevin, who’s facing 38 years in prison, was placed in solitary confinement — a practice that isolates a person from human contact for 22-24 hours a day. It’s a practice that often results in substantial, often irreversible, damage to someone’s physical and mental health. There is a growing worldwide consensus that it is ineffective and should be banned, let alone that it should not be used for a period as long as Kevin has endured.  

Why does Kevin continue to be in solitary confinement? The reasons are unclear, documentation is inconsistent, and our calls to state officials go unanswered. We are always directed back to the very people depriving my son of his basic human rights.

The Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) cannot police itself. They need people like you to speak up. Kevin’s parents started this petition to amplify their voices and let the VDOC know we demand Kevin be released from solitary confinement.  Kevin’s parents have been told he could be in solitary confinement until 2020. 

Remember that no court ever sentences anyone to solitary confinement.  Solitary confinement is always an administrative decision made by prison officials.  It is appalling that anyone has to stay in solitary for more than a few weeks let alone for many years.

Please sign and share IAHR’s petition demanding the Virginia Department of Corrections end my son Kevin Snodgrass’ solitary confinement.  

This petition will be delivered to:

  • Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia
    Terry McAuliffe
  • Lieutenant Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia
    Ralph Northam
  • Counselor to the Governor
    Carlos Hopkins
  • Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security
    Brian Moran
  • Director, Virginia Department of Corrections
    Harold W. Clarke
  • Attorney General of Virginia
    Mark Herring

Sign the Petition to Free Kevin Snodgrass by clicking here


Until very recently, Bradley Maxwell, a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, had been in isolation in Virginia prisons continuously since 2001, except for a few short breaks.  Most of his time in solitary confinement appears to have been based on his refusal to cut his hair for religious reasons.  Even after a special unit was established in 2010 to house such individuals, Bradley was initially told he could not be sent there.  No reason was given, which prompted him to file a complaint and then a lawsuit.   

Eventually Bradley was placed in the special unit briefly, but later found himself back in segregation for extensive periods following disciplinary charges that he contends were false.  He believes this was retaliation for the litigation and complaints he had filed.  During one of these periods, he remained in segregation for nearly 2 years after the underlying disciplinary charge was dismissed. 

IAHR repeatedly expressed concern to the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) about Bradley’s extremely long confinement in isolation, the lack of transparency regarding the reasons for it, and his allegations of harassment and retaliation.  We also informed the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands of our concerns.

In an October 2016 meeting with the VADOC’s executive staff, we showed them documentation Bradley had provided, indicating that prison staff responsible for making a recommendation about his housing status had actually recommended he be transferred back to the special unit at Wallens Ridge for grooming code violators; however, the form documenting this recommendation also bore an anonymous handwritten note overruling the recommendation, without explanation.  IAHR continued to express concern about the lack of transparency surrounding decisions about Bradley’s housing. 

At the end of 2016, Bradley was moved back to the special unit at Wallens Ridge for grooming code violators.  While he welcomed this change and attributed it to IAHR’s advocacy, he noted that at least one of the officers staffing that unit was a subject of a lawsuit he had filed in the past.  Bradley reported receiving ongoing harassment and threats from staff.  He was placed back in isolation 2 months later, ostensibly because he had an enemy among the inmates in the special unit, although no evidence was produced of any threats or altercations between Bradley and another inmate.

We continued to raise concerns that returning Bradley to isolation did not appear to be a last resort and that, consequently, it was incompatible with international human rights standards, particularly in view of the many years he had already spent in segregation.  We again pointed to mounting scientific evidence of lasting neurological damage to inmates who are held in prolonged isolation and cited Justice Department guidelines that urge (1) housing inmates in the least restrictive setting necessary to ensure safety; (2) clearly articulating the specific reasons for an inmate’s placement and retention in restrictive housing; and (3) developing a clear plan for returning the individual to less restrictive conditions as promptly as possible.  We noted that the use of segregation in Bradley’s case did not appear to be consistent with these guidelines.

Recently, the VADOC informed IAHR that Bradley had been reassigned outside of Virginia by the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Shortly thereafter, we learned that he had been transferred to a prison in Arizona.  We are following up to determine what the current conditions of Bradley’s confinement are, but at least initially they appear to constitute an improvement, and we share his relief that his many years of solitary confinement have finally ended.  We look forward to receiving more details from him in the near future.

Meanwhile, we want to thank all of our supporters who expressed concern about Bradley and signed petitions on his behalf.  Never doubt that your support matters and it can make a difference.  

 D.C. Program Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” Speech

New York Ave. Presbyterian Church, Washington DC, 12:30 -5 pm

Vigil at White House, 5-6:30 pm

April 4, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s prophetic sermon, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” at The Riverside Church in New York.  During the last year of his life, he struggled in the midst of war and government abandon of the poor to create new multiracial, multi-religious coalitions to move toward the "Beloved Community."

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. . . . . When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. … We are confronted by the fierce urgency of Now.”Martin_Luther_King_Jr.jpg

Please join clergy, laity and other people of good will who are concerned about America in this present crisis, for a day of reflection on Dr. King’s message.  We will gather at 12:30 (PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN LUNCH) and begin with an intergenerational and interfaith conversation about our current moral crisis with Sister Simone Campbell (“Nuns on the Bus”); Rabbi David Saperstein (former Dir., Religious Action Ctr.); Imam Talib Shareef (Masjid Muhammad); and Rev Anthony Grimes (Fellowship of Reconciliation & Black Lives Matter).Today we see extraordinary efforts to subjugate the poor, Black, Brown, religious minorities, immigrants, women, those who identify as LGBTQ, those who need medical care, the press, the working & middle class & Mother Earth. 

For More Information about this program and to register, please click here.  

 Prison Policy Initiative: Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017 

By Peter Wagner and Bernadette Rabuy 

March 14, 2017

Wait, does the United States have 1.3 million or more than 2 million people in prison? Are most people in state and federal prisons locked up for drug offenses? Frustrating questions like these abound because our systems of confinement are so fragmented and controlled by various entities. There is a lot of interesting and valuable research out there, but varying definitions make it hard — for both people new to criminal justice and for experienced policy wonks — to get the big picture.

This report offers some much needed clarity by piecing together this country’s disparate systems of confinement. The American criminal justice system holds more than 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 901 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 76 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the U.S. territories. And we go deeper to provide further detail on why people are locked up in all of those different types of facilities.

To read the rest of this article, please click here. 

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