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Here in San Quentin, I understand why solitary confinement must end

Advocates have been largely successful in curbing the use of solitary confinement in California prisons and jails this year. The California Mandela Act, named after the long-imprisoned South African president, passed Congress 41-16 in August, giving Gavin the support he needed to land on Governor Newsom’s desk. . He vetoed the bill a month later, citing safety concerns.

This should not be the end of the fight against this torturous practice. Lawmakers will have to try again next year and every year until the governor signs these restrictions into law.

Solitary confinement has not been proven to reduce prison violence. Researchers have found that it leads to higher recidivism rates. It is also an environment where prison suicides are disproportionately high.

The numbers tell a very scary story. I also saw the tolls firsthand.

He has spent over 26 years in the California prison system, including 13 coverages for San Quentin News, Solitary Watch, and various other news outlets. I have spoken to dozens of people who have been held in solitary confinement for disruptive behavior.

Solitary confinement is used for many reasons, but prison officials who defend it are quick to say it’s for “safety and security of the facility.”

Everyone I interviewed about solitary confinement says the lingering effects of extreme isolation. Michael Sperling, 45, says his life’s trajectory has led him to solitary confinement as well as imprisonment.

“My father shot me when I was 12,” said Sperling, who is in his 11th year incarcerated. He was sentenced to seven years for life for conspiring extortion. Sperling says his problems started shortly after his father got him hooked on heroin. He started running through the streets, where he was accepted by street gangs. His incarceration history includes several stints in juvenile detention. While in prison in California, he says he was sent to solitary confinement three times for gang-related activity.

And Terry Kitchen, 36. He has been imprisoned since he was 14 and is serving a life sentence in San Quentin. As we recently reported, Kitchen was sent to a solitary confinement called the Adjustment Center after he tested positive for COVID-19 last June.

“That experience hurt me,” Kitchen said. In his cell at the Adjustment Center, he said: So your enjoyment is watching spiders and ants roam around. ”

during his imprisonment. Kitchen said he was put in solitary confinement on several occasions for his disciplinary action, but being in solitary confinement due to illness was the worst.

William “Mike” Endres, 65, spoke about going undisciplined during his 24 years in prison, but prison officials said, “I don’t have COVID-19, and I have Found a way to put me in a hole to think I have COVID-19.” ”

Sperling explained the effects of extreme isolation. “At SHU, it’s very quiet,” he said. “That stillness and stillness will be your worst enemy. When you’re that quiet, you can hear people talking about you in your head.

“I slowly realized I was going insane,” he added, after years and months of sitting in a cell 23 hours a day. He, even a solid person, can tell from how people look at him, or from common gestures such as waving his hand, body language, how all his friends are trying to get him. I talked about what you can think of.

“Solitary confinement is not justice,” Sperling said. “It only degrades the great minds of great people. I am a witness to that. I have seen it happen. I have seen it happen.”

Sperling pointed out the long-term effects that isolation had on him.

In his veto message, Mr Newsom said he was instead directing prison officials to improve treatment of those in solitary confinement. said that

But really too broad a range is the use of solitary confinement in California.

Juan Moreno Haines is senior editor at San Quentin News and a contributor to Solitary Watch. ©2022 Los Angeles Times. Tribune Content is distributed by his agency.

https://www.mercurynews.com/2022/10/29/opinion-here-in-san-quentin-i-see-why-solitary-confinement-must-end/ Here in San Quentin, I understand why solitary confinement must end

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