Nearly 80,000 prisoners in the United States are held in solitary confinement for months on end without due process. As Sean Nevins reports for Mint Press News, in North Carolina’s Scotland Correctional Institution, “approximately 600 prisoners have been under intermittent lockdown since late December.” Lockdown involves confining prisoners to their cells for 22 to 24 hours a day and restricting privileges, such as outdoor recreation time and access to visitors. The Scotland facility holds just over 1,600 inmates.
John Boston, director of the Prisoner’s Rights Project of the New York City Legal Aide Society at the American Civil Liberties Union, described this as a form of “punitive segregation” without trial. Normally, Nevins writes, “when an individual is accused — even in prison — of doing something unlawful, he or she would normally have the right to due process before spending nine months in segregation.
North Carolina’s Scotland Correctional Institution is not alone in its questionable judicial methods. As many as seven other U.S. states deprive prisoners of their right to appear before a grand jury due to their lack of legal representation. For instance, in September 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, in association with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, filed a class action lawsuit against district attorney, sheriffs, and judges of Scott County, Mississippi. The lawsuit focused on the imprisonment of people for as long as a year without indicting them or appointing counsel. As Nevins reports, “The men are caught in a vicious catch-22, where no one will pay attention to their cases unless they have legal representation, yet they can’t receive a lawyer until they’re formally indicted by a grand jury.”
Sean Nevins, “North Carolina Prison Imposes 9-Month Lockdown On 600 Inmates,” Mint Press News, September 19, 2014, http://www.mintpressnews.com/north-carolina-prison-imposes-9-month-lockdown-600-inmates/196732/.
Abby Martin, “Prisoner Abuse: Indefinite Detention in Mississippi & Collective Punishment in North Carolina,” Media Roots, September 30, 2014, http://www.mediaroots.org/prisoner-abuse-indefinite-detention-in-mississippi-collective-punishment-in-north-carolina/.
Student Researcher: Chris DeLeon (Sonoma State University)
Community Evaluator: Matthew Lopez-Phillips