SOURCE: A Just Cause

A Just Cause

August 06, 2015 11:54 ET

BOP Chief, Director Samuels' Explanation of Use of Solitary Confinement in Federal Prison Is Not Accurate, Says Advocacy Group, A Just Cause

Advocacy Group, A Just Cause Says Reports, Studies, and Investigations Dispute BOP Director Samuels' Senate Subcommittee Testimony on the Use of Solitary Confinement in the Federal Prison System

DENVER, CO--(Marketwired - August 06, 2015) - Advocacy group, A Just Cause, states that investigative reports prove that Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Samuels did not present clear and honest testimony to the United States Senate Subcommittee when questioned about use of solitary confinement in the federal prison system. "There are numerous accounts of use of solitary confinement in the Federal Bureau of Prisons system despite August 4, 2015 Senate Subcommittee testimony by Director Charles E. Samuels, Jr. when he stated, 'We (BOP) do not practice solitary confinement,'" says Sam Thurman, A Just Cause.

According to the National Journal, "At a hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Tuesday (August 4, 2015), activists clashed with prison administrators over the level of mistreatment in the federal prison system, especially when it came to defining 'solitary confinement.'" (Emma Roller. National Journal, The Problem with Defining 'Solitary Confinement,' http://www.nationaljournal.com/congress/the-problem-with-defining-solitary-confinement-20150804). The National Journal went on to report, "But in a confusing exchange with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey at the hearing, Samuels denied that the Federal Bureau of Prisons even practices solitary confinement."

According to The Hill, Director Samuels claimed, "We do not practice solitary confinement. Our practice has always been to ensure that when individuals are placed in restrictive housing, we place them in a cell with another individual, to also include that our staff make periodic rounds to check on the individuals." (http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/250247-dems-grill-federal-prisons-chief)

The National Journal report states that the exchange between Booker and Samuels continued with, "'I'm sorry, I just really need to be clear on that,' Booker cut in, sounding baffled. 'Your testimony to me right now is that the BOP does not practice solitary confinement of individuals singularly in a confined area?' 'You're correct,' Samuels said. 'We only place an individual in a cell alone if we have good evidence to believe that the individual could cause harm to another individual and/or if we have our medical or mental health staff given an evaluation that it would be a benefit to the individual to be placed in a cell alone. We do not under any circumstances, nor have we ever, had a practice of placing individuals in a cell alone.'"

A Just Cause's review of BOP Policy found that Program Statement 5270.10, Special Housing Units (SHU), describes the Federal Bureau of Prisons' operation of Special Housing Units "at Bureau institutions." The program statement cites, "The Bureau's operation of SHUs is authorized by 18 U.S.C. 4042(a)(2) and (3). (http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/18/III/303/4042)

"Director Samuels statement to the Senate Subcommittee was that 'We do not practice solitary confinement, and… we place them in a cell with another inmate,' but then he contradicts himself and states that an individual will be placed in a cell alone if there is evidence that the inmate will cause harm to himself or someone else," says Thurman. "Director Samuels was wavering in his testimony, especially when it is very clear in BOP Program Statement 5270.10, Special Housing Unit, section 2, § 541.21 Special Housing Units, which states, 'Special Housing Units (SHUs) are housing units in Bureau institutions where inmates are securely separated from the general inmate population, and may be housed either alone or with other inmates.' So it would appear that Director Samuels was trying to mislead Senate members by stating that the BOP 'does not practice solitary confinement and that inmates are not in cells alone,'" argues Thurman.

"As for SHUs being authorized by 18 U.S.C. 4042(a)(2) and (3), it appears that the BOP took a broad brush to this one," says Thurman. "18 U.S.C. 4042(a)(2) and (3) states, '(a) In General. -- The Bureau of Prisons, under the direction of the Attorney General, shall -- (1) have charge of the management and regulation of all Federal penal and correctional institutions; (2) provide suitable quarters and provide for the safekeeping, care, and subsistence of all persons charged with or convicted of offenses against the United States, or held as witnesses or otherwise; (3) provide for the protection, instruction, and discipline of all persons charged with or convicted of offenses against the United States… (http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/18/III/303/4042#sthash.hwQ6gmru.dpuf).'

"How the BOP translates 18 U.S.C. 4042(a)(2) and (3) to authorization for use of solitary confinement is beyond me," argues Thurman. "Nowhere in 18 U.S.C. 4042(a)(2) and (3) does it call out solitary confinement. It says 'suitable quarters.' By all accounts, 'solitary confinement' does not necessarily qualify as 'suitable quarters.' The director for the state corrections program in Colorado couldn't even make it 24 hours in a 'special housing unit,' so I would venture to say that his experience did not constitute 'suitable', and I'm sure the federal system is not any different," argues Thurman.

"Not only is the use of solitary confinement a major issue within the BOP, but when and how it is used is often left to the discretion of the corrections staff," claims Thurman. "A Just Cause (AJC) filed a complaint with the BOP in January 2015 on behalf of the IRP6 who are currently incarcerated at the Federal Corrections Camp in Florence, Colorado, and the crux of the complaint centered on the use of solitary confinement as a means of retaliation against the IRP6," says Thurman. "Prison records will show that there was a reported concern regarding a 'Scabies' outbreak at the Florence Colorado prison camp in late December 2014. During a previous 'outbreak' records will show that the inmates received oral medication, but several inmates became ill as a result. During the December 'outbreak' a few inmates, including the IRP6, requested alternative 'topical' treatment. The AJC complaint charges that BOP staff threatened the inmates with being placed in 'isolation' (solitary confinement) if they didn't take the oral medication. The AJC complaint charges that the IRP6 and other inmates were well within their rights to refuse treatment, and that BOP staff were in violation of BOP policy to threaten use of solitary confinement," charges Thurman.

According to Federal BOP Program Statement (June 3, 2014), OPI: HSD/HPB, Number 6031.04, Rule 44, inmates may refuse medical treatment, and if they do so prison staff should ask the inmate to sign a Medical Treatment Refusal form (BP-A0358).

According to U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons Program Statement, OPI CPD/CSB, Number 5270.09, "…disciplinary action may not be capricious or retaliatory…" "One must ask, why would an inmate(s) be sent to the hole (solitary confinement) for requesting an alternative form of medical treatment. Based on BOP policy it is their right to make such a request (or to decline medication all together, which is not what happened at the camp in Florence Colorado)," says Thurman. "The IRP6 were threatened with 3 months in the hole and they were actually sent to the hole for several days. These are outright violations," adds Thurman.

"A Just Cause sent letters to Director Samuels and Florence Warden John Oliver in January 2015 expressing concerns regarding violations of BOP policy on medical treatment and the use of solitary confinement as retaliation, but the we did not receive a reply," claims Thurman. "In fact, in June 2015 representatives of AJC travelled to Washington, D.C. to request a meeting with Director Samuels to review concerns about conditions at the prison camp at Florence Colorado, and the Director had them removed from the Bureau of Prisons building after having been cleared for access," says Thurman. "That was probably one of the most disrespectful acts on the part of a public official that members of the this advocacy group have ever witnessed. If the Director chooses to stick his head in the sand and ignore blatant violations at one of his facilities that is a serious problem. AJC is very pleased that members of the Senate like Senator Cory Booker and Senator Claire McCaskill are taking on this issue head-on," exclaims Thurman.

"Conditions within the federal prison system need a complete overhaul," says Thurman. "Congress and the Senate are totally justified in questioning how the bureau is using $7 Billion especially when there is bipartisan support for reducing the number of men and women incarcerated," Thurman adds. "Poor and substandard conditions don't stop with solitary confinement but extend to reports of inmates being served food labeled as 'not fit for human consumption', religious materials being denied to inmates, inmates at Florence USP being placed on 'dog kennels' for outdoor exercise, and many other inhumane conditions too numerous to cite in one press release," says Thurman. "Several publications like The New York Times and The Boston Globe have published extensive reports on conditions at the federal prison facilities at Florence; people will be shocked at what they read, adds Thurman. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/29/magazine/inside-americas-toughest-federal-prison.html?_r=0) and (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/2015/04/09/how-tsarnaev-will-live-lives/76emAU2RNeUxfSDt4POHwJ/story.html)

"Other accounts like the Crime Report and SolitaryWatch.com share shocking insights into the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons especially regarding the mentally ill. Reports show that the prison 'segregation' population has grown significantly between 2004 and 2014. One such report is a 242-page audit released in December 2014 titled, 'Federal Bureau of Prisons: Special Housing Unit Review and Assessment' (http://www.bop.gov/resources/news/pdfs/CNA-SHUReportFinal_123014_2.pdf). So for Director Samuels to try to pretend that solitary confinement does not exist in the federal prison system is atrocious," concludes Thurman.

The IRP6 case concerns a Colorado-based company (IRP Solutions Corporation) that developed the Case Investigative Life Cycle (CILC) criminal investigations software for federal, state, and local law enforcement. A Just Cause argues that the IRP6 (Kendrick Barnes, Gary L Walker, Demetrius K. Harper, Clinton A Stewart, David A Zirpolo and David A Banks) were wrongly convicted in 2011 after being accused of mail and wire fraud. (D. Ct. No. 1:09-CR-00266-CMA).

"A Just Cause will continue to fight for the IRP6 and others who are subjected to inhumane conditions and abuse in the prison systems at all levels," Thurman pledges.

For more information about the story of the IRP6 or for copies of the legal filings go to http://www.freetheirp6.org.

Related press releases: http://www.a-justcause.com/#!2015-press-releases/cl69

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