A 2019 study found that black women make up 42 percent of women in solitary confinement, but only 21.5 percent of all female inmates.
A group of human rights lawyers wants the United Nations to investigate why black people spend unusually long periods of time in solitary confinement.
According to The Hill, Delia Addo-Yobo is a staff attorney for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights US Advocacy and Litigation Program, one of several groups participating in the request for the UN to investigate the abusive practices of solitary confinement being used. by the US against African Americans.
Addo-Yobo said one reason the organizations’ detailed UN submission focused on black individuals is that they are more likely to be incarcerated and held in solitary confinement than white Americans.
“The United States also has a very long and unfortunately active history of weaponizing solitary confinement against black people,” said Addo-Yobo, The Hill reported, “[including] Black political prisoners and people exercising their constitutional rights.”
A 2019 study by the Liman Center at Yale Law School and the Correctional Leaders Association found that black men accounted for more than 43 percent of men in solitary confinement and 40.5 percent of the total male prison population. Black women make up 42 percent of women in solitary confinement, but only 21.5 percent of all female prisoners.
According to the groups’ entry, more than a third of inmates experience psychosis or suicidal thoughts within the first 15 days of incarceration. People who have experienced solitary confinement are reportedly 78 percent more likely to commit suicide within a year of being released.
There have also been reports of those who were isolated behind bars developing hypertension, persistent headaches, trembling, sweaty palms, acute dizziness and palpitations. It can exacerbate pre-existing conditions, increase sensitivity to light, and damage a person’s eyesight — all of which reportedly make the practice illegal under international law.
“We want the United States, along with the rest of the world, to ban and strictly limit the use of solitary confinement,” Addo-Yobo said, according to The Hill. “It’s torture, and I believe the [country] is better than torture.”
Studies have shown that those released from solitary confinement had a recidivism rate that was 35 percent higher than those who were not incarcerated that way.
Addo-Yobo said she hopes the entry — which calls for an immediate ban on incarceration for youths and people with disabilities — draws attention to the efforts of organizations seeking to change the laws governing such actions. Measures include passing legislation similar to the International Mandela Rules, which would prohibit prisoners from spending more than 15 days in solitary confinement.
Addo-Yobo also calls for statistics on the number of people and the length of time they spend in solitary confinement in municipal, state and federal prisons and jails, juvenile detention centers and immigrant detention centers to be made mandatory for public disclosure.
The lawyers’ submission comes ahead of a visit by UN representatives to the US in April to discuss issues related to racial justice and law enforcement justice.
“There is little evidence to show that solitary confinement improves security in prisons and jails,” Addo-Yobo said, noting that research shows the opposite.
“It doesn’t keep people safer while they’re in prison,” she added, The Hill reported. “It does not protect prison guards or correctional officers from prison. Nor does it keep people who are in prison safe while they are there.
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