This month, the IAHR Newsletter features three upcoming events, two of which will be in Richmond, two news stories and a podcast on the horrors of prolonged isolation, and a letter from prison from our friend MarQui Clardy, Jr.
The ACLU will host a briefing on Capitol Hill on legislation recently introduced by U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond (D-LA). HR4488, the Solitary Confinement Study and Reform Act of 2019, would establish national standards to limit the use of solitary in U.S. correctional facilities.
The briefing will take place in Room 121, Cannon House Office Building, 27 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC, on Thursday, November 21, from 4 to 6 PM. It is open to the public, but an RSVP is required to attend.
Solitary Confinement in Virginia
A Panel Talk and Discussion about Conditions of Confinement in Virginia
When: Monday, December 2, 2019
Where: Temple Beth El, 3330 Grove Ave, Richmond, VA
Refreshments will be served.
Kimberly is a tireless advocate for justice, civil and human rights. Because of her family’s personal struggle to see justice served, she has traveled the country fighting wrongful incarceration. When Ms. Jenkins-Snodgrass experienced the injustice of the system firsthand with her son’s wrongful incarceration, her faith in the system was lost. However, her story is one that far too many American families experience and it has strengthened her resolve to work for equality. Kimberly is the vice-chair of IAHR and author of “U Can’t Have Him.”
David is an alumnus of Mary Washington College with a B.A. in Religion and Concordia Seminary-St. Louis where he earned a Master of Divinity. He served in pastoral ministry for 6 years. In 2013 he was arrested and subsequently spent over 16 and a half months in solitary confinement in Norfolk, Va. He currently works for Allianz in Richmond, volunteers with formerly incarcerated to equip them to thrive, and advocates for change in the Virginia prison and jail system.
Vishal joined the ACLU of Virginia as a Senior Staff Attorney in March 2018. He advocates on a broad range of issues to advance civil rights and civil liberties in Virginia, including through impact litigation, non-litigation advocacy, and educating individuals and communities across the Commonwealth.
Before joining the ACLU of Virginia, Vishal was the Cochran Fellow at Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, LLP, in New York City, where he practiced wrongful conviction civil rights litigation. Prior to that he served as a Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, where his work focused on voting rights and elections.
Rabbi Charles Feinberg
Chuck was a congregational rabbi for 42 years. He served and led congregations in Wisconsin, New York, British Columbia, and Washington, DC. During his career, Rabbi Feinberg has been an advocate for Central American Refugees, the poor and the homeless, for interfaith dialogue and cooperation, and for respecting the human rights of both Palestinians and Israelis. Rabbi Feinberg recently began his fourth year as Executive Director of IAHR.
Meeting with VA Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security
On Monday, December 9, members of the Virginia Coalition Against Solitary will be meeting with Secretary Brian Moran and Administrative Officials of the Virginia Department of Corrections. This is the second in a series of meetings with Secretary Moran and Virginia Department of Corrections officials. The first was in July 2019. The purpose of these meeting is to give feedback to Virginia prison officials about practices and incidents that occur on the inside. The goal is to find common ground so that conditions on the inside will improve.
Features and News on the Web
Civil rights attorney Laura Rovner's TEDx talk on “What happens to people in solitary confinement” is now featured on the main TED website and has received over 650,000 views. Rovner, who is professor at the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law, has represented people confined for decades in the federal supermax prison ADX Florence in Colorado, which she says has “nearly perfected solitary confinement” and managed to bar access to the media and any human rights organizations from observing the conditions.
The isolation so severely starves people of contact with any living being that in one of her client’s cases, Rovner said he lay on the floor for hours waiting to see the shoes of a guard walk past. Ultimately, Rovner characterized solitary confinement as a “prolonged social death,” and called on listeners to “bear witness” to the torture of solitary confinement in ADX and across the U.S. prison system.
Making history. The Justice Votes 2020 Town Hall at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia was the first presidential town hall moderated by formerly incarcerated people—with more than 250,000 people tuning in to watch the livestream.
Organized by Voters Organized to Educate and presented by The Marshall Project and NowThis News, the event gave justice-involved people a chance to question Democratic presidential candidates on issues seldom discussed on the campaign trail, such as sentencing reform for people convicted of violent crimes. For more on what Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Tom Steyer had to say, Nicole Lewis has our story.
Indiana law says the maximum allowable term in solitary confinement is 30 days, after which prison officials must review the offender to determine whether the inmate should stay segregated. An inmate who spent more than four years in solitary will receive roughly $100,000 for each of those years, the Indianapolis Star reports.
Jay Vermillion, who’s serving a decades long sentence for murder and other offenses, was denied a clear explanation for why he was held in isolation and had his term there extended multiple times, said his attorney, Maggie Filler, of the Chicago-based MacArthur Justice Center. As Vermillion’s case was heading to trial in Indianapolis federal court, his attorneys reached a settlement last month with the state for $425,000, according to a copy of the settlement provided to IndyStar. Indiana Department of Correction spokesman Dave Bursten told IndyStar that the agency agreed to resolve the case to avoid the “uncertainties” of litigation and the expenses that would be incurred. “We continue to deny any fault, wrongdoing or liability with respect to this litigation,” Bursten said in the statement.
Remember IAHR on Giving Tuesday, December 3, 2019.