What about the victims?

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism has just published an exhaustive and revealing piece on solitary confinement in Wisconsin prisons.

There’s no discounting the work, the efforts, the findings that was involved in a survey of inmates. There’s also no doubt this is written primarily from the inmates’ perspective:

The Center’s survey — conducted in the wake of an inmate hunger strike luanched in June aimed at ending long-term solitary confinement in Wisconsin — asked about prisoners’ living conditions, mental health status, whether they received regular meals and whether they had committed or been a victim of violence while in administrative confinement.

Sixty-five inmates, many of whom have committed horrific crimes including multiple murders, violent attacks and sexual assault, responded to the surveys.

One respondent to the Center’s survey was in solitary for about 28 years; another has served 20 years.

The results of the survey were stark:

  • Ten inmates reported attempting suicide while in administrative confinement. One said administrative confinement “makes you numb, violent, hateful, loud, disrespectful (and) suicidal.” Most described feelings of isolation, hopelessness, anxiety or paranoia.
  • Of the 65 respondents, 26 claimed they have had medications or medical devices withheld or threatened to be withheld by security staff who distribute prescriptions or that they had overheard it happening to other inmates in solitary.
  • More than a third of the respondents — 28 inmates — said they had been treated violently by other inmates or prison staff; 13 acknowledged harming or threatening to harm staff members or other inmates.
  • Several described sleep deprivation from screaming and banging from other inmates and perpetual lighting.
  • Thirteen inmates had food complaints, with some saying guards sometimes failed to deliver meals or that portions were inadequate, leaving them hungry.

Remember, inmates who committed horrendous crimes are the survey respondents. Solitary conditions are unsettling to say the least. However, are readers supposed to naively swallow that the responses are genuine and accurate?

In all, 3177 words. Other than a few links to news items about some of the crimes committed I read very little about the innocent victims.

Monday on WI Public Radio a former corrections officer called in during a live program with one of the article’s writers to explain why segregation of certain prisoners was necessary. That aspect of this issue should have been explored further.

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