by Emma Hogan and Hannah Bolotin
One man currently looking at over a year in solitary confinement as he waits to start mandatory anger management programming writes: “Currently, they aren’t doing anything because no one knows this is going on and those who do don’t care.”
Over 200 individuals currently in solitary confinement in Washington State are being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment due to the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) severe mishandling of COVID-19 adjustments. Incarcerated individuals who receive violent infractions have historically been sent to solitary confinement for a year or less as they complete a required behavioral change class — though the DOC was already moving away from using solitary confinement in recent years as evidence builds that this practice increases future behavioral issues, induces trauma, and catalyzes existing or new mental health issues. However, during the pandemic, this issue has taken on a new level of what is widely considered torture: The DOC has responded to COVID-19 restrictions by keeping the same course completion requirements but cutting class sizes in half, resulting in waitlists for required courses over a year long. And as a result, the majority of these individuals are forced to spend extended periods of time in solitary confinement.
This blatant malpractice was detailed by one of the many individuals experiencing it — a man who is trapped in solitary and is expected to remain on the waitlist for at least 13 more months — in a letter to his mother that she has since circulated in an effort to spread his message.
Continue reading OPINION: Washington’s DOC Is Trapping Incarcerated Men in Solitary Confinement
by Paul Faruq Kiefer
(This article was previously published by PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
On the morning of Wednesday, June 30, Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) staff covered part of a window at the entrance of the Twin Rivers Unit (TRU) at the Monroe Correctional Complex in Snohomish County in an attempt to lower the heat inside on a day when outside temperatures peaked at 82 degrees.
But people incarcerated in the TRU say they spent the worst of the past week’s heat wave — including a high of 111 degrees in Monroe on Monday, June 28 — in sweltering cells with no air-conditioning and few chances to cool down, while prison staff had access to air-conditioned offices when temperatures rose into the triple digits.
The newly covered window, they said, was too little, too late. But few of those living in the unit are confident that prison administrators are planning ahead for another heat wave. “These are only going to get more common,” said David, a prisoner in the TRU who spoke with PubliCola on Wednesday. “And it’s pretty clear that [the DOC] won’t be prepared for the next one.” (PubliCola is using David’s first name only to reduce the risk of retaliation.)
Continue reading Sweltering Temperatures and Minimal Preparation Left State Prisoners Struggling to Cope
by Paul Kiefer
(This article was previously published at PubliCola and has been reprinted with permission.)
On the afternoon of Friday, June 18, 63-year-old Raymond Ben became the fifth person from King County to be resentenced under a new state law intended to correct decades of harsh mandatory sentences by retroactively removing second-degree robbery from the list of offenses targeted by the state’s “three-strikes” statute, which imposes a life sentence without parole for so-called “persistent offenders.”
The law requires prosecutors to request resentencing hearings by July 25 for anyone currently serving a life sentence for a “three-strikes” case involving a second-degree robbery — which, unlike other three-strikes offenses like rape and manslaughter, typically doesn’t involve a weapon or injury to another person. The law made at least 114 people across Washington eligible for resentencing, including 29 people from King County — many of whom, like Ben, have spent a decade or more in prison.
Continue reading Resentencing Continues Under Law Correcting Harsh ‘Three-Strikes’ Convictions
by Hannah Bolotin
On Jan. 14, 2021, the Office of the Corrections Ombuds (OCO) published a report summarizing numerous cases of delayed cancer diagnosis and treatment by the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC), highlighting the ways in which DOC’s negligence has led to several preventable prisoner deaths.
In yet another example of DOC’s negligence, the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCC-W) has been rebuffing a prisoner’s requests for treatment for rapid development of potentially cancerous tumors for years. Several years ago, Patricia Teafatiller noticed a mass on her neck. A year and a half ago, a second lump developed along her spine. Patricia sought medical care and was told it was just a knot in her neck. She was subsequently informed she had degenerative disk disease to explain away the mass on her spine, saying nothing of her symptoms and masses in other locations. The lumps have continued to grow, more masses have appeared, and none have diminished. Her neck has grown increasingly stiff; she describes it as feeling like it is in a vice, with a grinding, popping sensation whenever she moves her chin towards her chest. The results of the ultrasound that was eventually ordered were inconclusive, warranting an MRI and/or biopsy to confirm whether the masses are benign or malignant — the standard of care in any medical practice.
Continue reading OPINION: DOC’s Medical Negligence and Dehumanization of Prisoners Must End