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Conditions of Confinement While Waiting for Competency

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Jail Conditions (continued) next section of this report, many of these rooms were stained and still smelled of human waste. Fourth, every jail we visited also had restraint chairs. The chairs themselves had straps at each arm and leg, and one for the head. Fifth, jails offer very limited opportunities for activities and interaction for individuals during the hour each day when the inmate may leave his or her cell. Any interaction with other inmates or jail staff is usually either through their windows or slots in the cell doors. Many individuals DRW visited stated that they have not touched nor had a face to face conversation with another human being for weeks to months. While DRW has significant concerns with the overall jail conditions, its monitoring revealed several promising practices that we list at the conclusion of this report. These practices are examples of how some jails currently seek to improve the conditions of confinement.

Franklin County Jail’s restraint chair

A Typical Day in Isolation “[T]here are few if any forms of imprisonment that appear to produce so much psychological trauma and in which so many symptoms of psychopathology are manifested [as isolation ].” - Craig Haney, Mental Health Issues in Long-Term Solitary and “Supermax” Confinement, 49 CRIME & DELINQ. 124 (2003). DRW’s monitoring found inmates in isolation spend 23 to 24 hours a day locked alone in small, often windowless cells. They are deprived of books, radios, or any other form of activity to divert their minds from their living circumstances. They are fed in their cells, their food passed to them on trays through a slot in the door. In addition, they have extremely limited opportunities to participate in any form of mental health therapy. Through interviews of jail staff and inmates, DRW learned that often the only contact with mental health professionals occurs during rounds when staff walk through the jail and occasionally stop by to speak to inmates through the bars or slot in their cell door, all within earshot of neighboring cells. Inmates who have medication side effects, who feel depressed, or who may believe that they no longer need medications, often begin to refuse medications because there is little to no opportunity to talk privately with the mental health professionals. See Sharon Shaley, Sourcebook on Solitary Confinement, Mannheim Centre for Criminology, London School of Economics and Politics (2008), available at www.solitaryconfinement.org/sourcebook (last visited January 23, 2013). Finally, studies report the effects of isolation including sleep disturbances, nightmares, depression, anxiety, phobias, impaired memory, and concentration long after the release from isolated environments implying “a degree of irreversibility.” Id. at 22.

Lost and Forgotten  

Conditions of confinement while waiting for competency evaluation and restoration

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