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tv   Inside Story  Al Jazeera  April 13, 2015 11:30pm-12:01am EDT

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film "the imitation game." he is known as the father of modern computer science i'm antonio mora thank you for joining us. for the latest new head over to aljazeera.com. "inside story" is next. have a great night. maybe you have seen nit the movies. small window less cells prisoners allowed out only an hour a day, isolation. now prisoners are fighting back, in courts even through hunger strikes. it is the inside story.
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prisoners use segregation as a punishment, or they say, to keep the rest of the confined safe from dangerous prisoners. psychiatrists have call add cluster of symptoms that come from this confinement shoe syndrome. it includes memory loss, paranoia, hallucinations anxiety. 200 inmates have been cleared by a federal judge to bring a class action lawsuit, alleging that solitaire violates their rights. the state of california fought against allowing prisoners to have status as a class, and a federal judge's ruling could end or curtail the use of solitary confinement.
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gang members are most often segregated this way, regardless of their behavior of criminal acts, prisoners isolated in this way are confined to their cells more than 22 hours a day. often without a window. human contact is minimized, prisoners are remotely monitored california's pelican bay state prison is a maximum security penitentiary, where 500 inmates have been locked in administrative segregation for more than ten years. nearly 200 inmates there have experienced more than 15 years in isolation. and still another 78 have spent two decades
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confined to an eight by ten cell. a federal judge in oakland is allowed hundreds of prisoners at pelican bay to join a lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality of their solitary confinement. the suit originally brought by the center for constitutional rights on behalf of ten inmates arguing their confinement in the security housing unit is cruel and unusual punishment. a violation of their rights and c.c.r. says experts con skulling in bringing the lawsuit found long term solitaire con finement caused psychiatric morbidity, and disability. the people that inhabit these prisons are not the most sympathetic population.
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it is the answer i would rather worry about the victims, but right now across the country, we are beginning to move away from the extremely long sentences that were with so much envogue these prisoners are more likely to be out and in communities again some day, does widespread use of solitary confinement even work? does it represent anything like best practice for prison authorities, or is it just the only tool handy. that's this time on inside story. joining us for that conversation, anthony graves who spent ten years in solitary confinement. part of 18 1/2 years he spent in prison for a crime he did not commit. martin horn, who formerly ran new york city jails and david director of the american civil liberties union national prison project. anthony graves let me start with you, most people, almost all the people watching this program have never
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experienced anything like it, walk us through a day, the sun comes up maybe you see it, maybe you don't, but it is a new day, what's a day in solitary like? >> well, they start off about 3:00 in the morning when they are coming through and waking you up to feed you. and breakfast consistents of maybe one egg, and one biscuit. and some jelly. and biscuit is hard, and the egg is probably cold. that's how your day starts off. and then they cut the lights on you about 5:00 in the morning. and the lights stay on. if you are allowed to go out for one hour that day, they come and they handcuff you, they shackle you, they strip you out, they dehumanize you, they put you in a bigger cage for an hour, and you walk around like a wounded animal, because there's nothing else you can do in there. no workout equipment inning. then after that, they cake you back into your cell, and that's
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your whole day now you hope they give you a shower at least before they feed you again, because you are out there, sweaty whatever, but that's up to the officer, when you are in solitary, you really -- they don't have to give you a shower but three time as week, and most the time that's what they do. and then your cage can is eight by ten cage, yo i have a steel bulk -- i mean a steel sink connected to your steel toilet, you have a steel bunk at the back of your window -- i mean back of your wall, and then at the top of that back wall, there's a little slit that looks anything a little window up there. but you can make a fist and you can't even touch it because it is that small. and if you want to see anything, you have to roll up your mattress and try to stand up there, because it is that high to see just the sky. that's the only way you know if it is day or night, because the sun comes in through that wind with doe at the top the little slit, so you know it is daytime or
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nighttime, or you may be lucky to have a radio if you are not on so many restrictions and then someone can purchase fit the outside for you. other than that that's your whole day. at that point, that's when guys let their minds play tricks on you. you hear shouting and guys becoming depressed. all kind of emotions setting in, because there's nothing to do, you are behind four walls. just sitting there. and at some point it feels like the walls are closing in on you. >> a psychiatrists named terry coopers did a study of prisoners who had spent long time in solitary, he identified nightmares, palpations fear of empending nervous break down, paranoia aggressive fantasies, and impulse control problems. you were in -- >> yes. >> in solitary a long time, is that list sound familiar. >> i witnessed all of
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that. some of the things i went through myself particularly memory loss. i'm out here today but have a hard time remembering things that i have to write things down for myself. because in a matter of secondses i forgot what i was trying to think of. ptsd. i went with through my bout. i was very hypersensitive when i got out everything just drew out so many emotions in me that i would lose control of my emotions i would dry a lot, loneliness, i would be in the room with a lot of people, but knowing they count understand what i was going through, i just felt alone. it doesn't do anything but break your hill to live. there are so many effects that sometimes it is scary out here. i have been out 3 1/2 years i am still working through the issues have. i can tell you it has been very scary.
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>> you were overseeing the con finement of a large population as a tool, what is solitary for? is. >> well, let me start off by saying that the quarterbacks that anthony described are totally unacceptable. and all wrong. and so i would say that solitary confinement is never necessary, and never justified. there are occasions when prisoners need to be separated from other prisoners for go prisoners are fighting. if prisoners have engaged in predatory behavior, you have to separate them for the protection of other inmates and when prisoners break the rules they have to be consequences. now, ideally officials should have a variety of consequences.
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but there are some behaviors, inmates rape other inmates, stab other inmates first of all there has to be a punishment. there is a jail inside the jail, but there should never be a conditions where inmates experience the kind of extreme sensory deprivation that anthony described. this' never a justification. >> is that the difference between merely segregation, verses putting them in a blank room? is not allowing them to read or talk to anybody. >> i think that when corrections officials. remove a prisoner from the population, the corrections official assumes a higher level of responsibility for the well being of that prisoner. especially where it is long term, administrative, where it is preventive, as i
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suspect the case in the pelican bay cassina's what california will claim, there's no reason for the prisoner to experience those kinds of punitive effects. to the same extent if he was in population. there is no excuse to deprive an inmate of access to daylight. and to the extent that the situation permits it
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the inmate should be given the greatest opportunity to go outside and to reck create. >> let me turn to david at this point. because it's been described as a constitutional issue. under the 8th amendment, what is it that makes this more in your view more than just a bad idea, but something that violates human rights in. >> well, there are literally a couple hundred years of research that we have on what isolation does to people. people who are isolated for all kinds of reasons because they were -- bawl of an illness, because they are at a polar research station, or because they were in prison. and the findings from all over the world, from different decades different countries, are incredibly consistent. isolation deprivation of human contact damaging people. often iraqi reviser bly. particularly people who have any kind of preexisting vulnerable like a serious mental illness.
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that's why we with believe beyond a certain is right, violates the 8th men these are people that have committed some of the worst crimes that we have named for that we with have trials for. >> it is a miscon can interception that solitary con finement houses the worst of the worst. there are some of those people in solitary confinement. people who have raped or attacked or kills other prisoners or staff. but the vast majority of people in solitary don't fit that description. in california, you can can be sent to solitaire -- you will be if you are a classified as a member or an associate of a prison gang. and you don't have to do anything for that to happen. the classification can happen based on who you have your picture taken with. be i the books you read, the tattoos you have. and so it has nothing to do in most cases with the crime that landed the
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prisoner in prison we are going to take a short break, how this kind of segregation is being used today. is it being used in hue of mental health treatment? this is inside story.
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this is inside story. i'm ray swarez. at the pelican bay prison in california, a scene of 200er strikes and now home to a class action lawsuit against solitary confinement. fully one fifth of the inmates have been in solitary for ten to 20 years. we are looking at the use of administrative segregation and isolation as punishment and protection. martin horn, if we have suspiciouses that any one inmate has mental health problems, are we able to supply
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as a society know bag you know about the prisons across the country. do we supply mental health treatment to the degree that it is needed in our prison pop haitian? i would say for the most part not. there are some exceptions where there are high quality care, and adequate care, and ample care, but for the most part, prisons in general throughout the country have really been overwhelmed. by the number of people in their custody, and they were never equipped to service that need, and they have never caught up and many of them don't even understand what they need to do. let me again be clear, solitary con finement, that kind of extreme isolation that anthony described should never be used.
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but even before you put a person in any form of segregation, you out to rule out mental illness and if there is you muted treat that, and often times the behavior, and again to go back to the issue that you raised earlier the david raised about why people go to segregation in california, a person should not go to segregation because of marry association. the only reason to segregate a person really is their behavior. this has tock evidence of misbehavior, but even where that is so, it is often the case that the misbehavior is really a symptom of the mental illness. using segregation in lieu of treatment? >> absolutely. martin is right, this is not the fault of prison officials because they have left -- they have been left holding the bag for our society's lack of a functioning public mental health system.
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but prisons are filled with people suffering from mental illness. once they get into prison they tend to work their way into solitary con finement facilities where we find that anywhere from a third to a half of prisoners in solitary confinement are suffering from mental illness. >> previous director of corrections was killed by a man who had been released from prison after a long stretch in solitary, with no treatment coming out of that, it was put right on to the streets. talk about what it does to you even after you are out of being held in that condition? are you damaged by it? are you able to function hike a normal person after you have been by yourself 23 hour as day? >> first of all, i want
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to say that our prison system has become a danger to our society, by releasing me and more -- worse off than they were before they went in. that is a big problem. our prison system is turning off people worse off been they went in. i myself, when i was exonerated i walked out of solitary confinement on to the streets in the same day. it was just good for me that i had such a support system around me throughout my whole ordeal, that i was able to deal with it. on top of that they don't provide you with any tools to be productive once you walk out. it is a recipe for disaster. there is who transition to a kern person can come out being productive.
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they don't give them any tools to come out and be productive. they set them up, put them in solitary, i mean -- send them through held, and then release them. >> you were with from prison a long time, how long did it take you after coming out of solitary to feel like yourself again. >> well, you know, i have been out 3 1/2 years and i still don't feel like myself again, i still feel confidentble when i am by myself, that wasn't me before i was incarcerated. i still go through sleep less nights, i don't get but 2 1/2 hours of sheep a night. that's because of all the sleep deprivation. i still deal with issues so i can't put a timeframe on it, i somewhere a good support system that allows me to vent when i need to, and there for me when i need a should tore cry on. >> we with are going to take a short break, and when we come back, we'll talk about the momentum across the country taking a second look
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at solitary confinement. this is inside story. >> the peninsula, in arabic, is aljazeera. our logo represents courage. fiercely independent quality reporting. >> to take as much aid as possible... >> and standing up for the voiceless. when you see this symbol respected around the world it means you too can now count on all the things we stand for. aljazeera america.
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>> federal judges just cleared the way for inmates of a california prison to sue alleged 8th amendment violations for inflicting cruel and unjewish punishment. >> on the program we are looking at the use and misuse. still with us, anthony graves who spent five years in solitary confinement, for a crime he did not commit. martin horn executive director of the new york state sentencing commission who formerly ran new york city's jails and david fauti. director of the national prison project, does this california case have the potential to make precedent in this area?
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or is it just binding on pelican bay, and california prisons? >> well, as a matter of whether it's actually binding on other courts, it won't be binding beyond this one prison. courts consider what is called persuasive authority. in cases that are legally similar. so this does have the sense to set a national precedent. there come as time, when being locked in a wind with doeless box the size of a parking space violates the 8th amendment. >> to rewering maine, new york, colorado, others? is is there a momentum now for a re-examination of the use of solitary or are there so few tools that it's going to stick with us even among administrator whose don't want to use it.
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>> i think both are true there's no question that the people that i speak to, my colleagues correctional administrators all over the country, understand the da bill tating effects of extreme isolation. and for the most part, many of them especially at the state level less so than perhaps the county jails are taking steps to reduce the reliance on this kind of isolation. t'slation will be necessary, however, or separation, will be necessary. but extreme sensory deprivation of the type that anthony described i
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think will be replaced correctional administrators will have to make demands of their elected officials. their legislative bodies for the under thes to ensure that they can keep prisoners safe, and keep them healthy and sane. how do you punish men who are already being punished some of whom are pretty bad can you remembers. what is it that should be done now that you have lived this, that works? >> i echo the sentiments of the gentlemen just speaking. in some cases you have to separator inmates. in a dangerous situation dangerous to another inmail, whether it's a danger to himself. but when you do that you have to put in steps to help them get back into population. finding out what the problem really is, and then counseling them back. it shouldn't be a point of now return, so when
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you go to solitary that's it. it should be a situation that it's sort of -- it quells down a situation, but then, once you get that person, you coach that person back into society. you council, and find something wrong for it to be a situation anyway, so find out what two situation with is, find out what his mental state is, that's when you can evaluate, and assess, and know exactly what you need to do. but you don't just put him in a hole and leave him there until you release hit back to society that's no good. what did you do to get put into segregation. >> that's just the way with we are housed. i was on texas death row that's how you are housed. and then you have a jail
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within with solitary, if you do something while housed there, they take you to jail, which means they take even more whatever little privileges you have away because you were on death roll you were already in solitary? >> yes narks' the way they house. >> ten years of your life? >> i would with say more than ten, since i don't put an actual number on it i say more than ten but i stayed 18 1/2 years. and most of it was inin solitary confinement because that's the way you are housed. >> thank you all fascinating conversation. that brings us to the end of this edition of inside story, thank you for joining us, the program may be over, but the conversation continues we want to hear what youny about the issues raised on this, or on any day's show, you can log on to our facebook page, you can send us your thoughts on twitter, our handle is a.j. inside story a.m. or you can reach me directly at ray swarez news. we will see you for the next inside story, in washington, i'm ray
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swarez. >> the u.n. security council is to debate a resolution on yemen, russian calls for a ceasefire are rejected hello, welcome to al jazeera, live from our headquarters in doha. i'm elizabeth puranam. also ahead - u.n.i.c.e.f. says 800,000 nigerian children are running for their lives from boko haram, a year after the chibok kidnapping

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