THE FORTUNE NEWS A FORTUNE SOCIETY PUBLICATION · VOLUME X LIV NO.1 · JANUARY 2013
“THE DEGREE OF CIVILIZATION IN A SOCIETY CAN BE JUDGED BY ENTERING ITS PRISONS” —DOSTOEVSKI
The Fortune News 1
Table of Contents Our Mission
Eye on Fortune
Faces of Fortune
News from the DRCPP and The Word in Reform
Introducing The Fortune Society's Better Living Center
On the Record - Notes from our Founder, David Rothenberg
â€œSuffering in Solitary", by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella of Solitary Watch
The Last Word
In the Next Issue
Eye on Fortune
The Fortune Society's mission is to support successful reentry from prison and promote alternatives to incarceration, thus strengthening the fabric of our communities. WE DO THIS BY : Believing in the power of individuals to change; Building lives through service programs shaped by the needs and experience of our clients; and Changing lives through education and advocacy to promote the creation of a fair, humane and truly rehabilitative correctional system.
CONTACT 212.691.7554 firstname.lastname@example.org
. The Fortune Society 29-76 Northern Boulevard Long Island City, NY 11101
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To learn more, please visit us at www.fortunesociety.org contact us by phone or email, ,or simply stop by our Long Island City location! Walk-in hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00AMâ€“4:00PM.
YOUNG PHILANTHROPISTS RAISE OVER $69,000 AT THE FORTUNE SOCIETY'S SECOND ANNUAL SPRING SOIREE On May 16th, 2012, hundreds of young philanthropists came together at Trump Soho in Manhattan in support of The Fortune Society at the Second Annual Spring Soiree. Hosted by The Fortune Society Board's Junior Committee, The Leadership Foundation and young philanthropists Luke Weil and Louise Tabbiner, the event raised more than $69,000 to support services that help Fortune's clients successfully re-enter their communities after serving time in prisons and jail. www.fortunesociety.org
Eye on Fortune (cont.) "We are thrilled that we were able to top last year's results," said Luke Weil, co-chair of the event. "It is gratifying to see that our generation can make a difference," Weil added. The Spring Soiree event included a 30minute set by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter John Forte, accompanied by a five-piece band. At one point, Ben Taylor, the musician/actor son of James Taylor and Carly Simon, joined Forte and his band. Renowned artist DJ Layela (former Miss Colombia) also performed. CHEF MARCUS SAMUELSSON COOKS UP INTEREST IN HEALTHY EATING AT THE FORTUNE SOCIETY'S CASTLE GARDENS On May 17th 2012, Marcus Samuelsson, owner of the Red Rooster Harlem and Ginny's Supper Club, stopped by The Fortune Society's Castle Gardens to discuss the importance of healthy eating and provide cooking tips to Fortune clients and community members. The program was a part of Fortune's ongoing efforts to promote healthy living. "It does make a difference what we eat," said Samuelsson, who does cooking demonstrations once a month throughout Harlem as a way to give something back to the community. Samuelsson provided practical tips for incorporating healthy eating. For example, he told the group that eating foods such as fried chicken is okay, but he encouraged eating it with a salad rather than a side of macaroni and cheese.
THE FORTUNE SOCIETY CELEBRATES 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FORTUNE ACADEMY On June 18th, 2012, more than one hundred members of New York City's philanthropic, government, business and Broadway communities joined The Fortune Society to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Fortune Academy (also known as the Castle), a West Harlem supportive housing program that, over the last decade, has provided critical services to more than 1,000 formerly incarcerated men and women who were homeless when they came to Fortune. Former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey and award-winning actresses Linda Lavin and Nilaja Sun were on-hand and served as event cochairs. Fortune transformed the Castle from a formerly abandoned drug den into a place of hope in 2002. Today, the Castle is a 62-bed residential housing facility for people who have served time and are homeless. Staff members are on hand 24 hours a day and provide a broad array of support services to help residents address the multiple challenges that confront them. Every resident also participates in Fortune Society programs to assist them in their successful transition back to the community. Programs include education, career development and counseling.
While the project was initially met with resistance from the community, in the ensuing decade, it has been embraced by the neighborhood and serves as an important community anchor and resource. In fact, the success of the Castle paved the path for Fortune's newest supportive housing project, Castle Gardens, a “green” permanent housing and service facility opened in 2010 that provides affordable housing and services to formerly incarcerated individuals and low-income families. “Ten years ago, against all the odds, Fortune opened the doors to the Castle. It has become a place of hope where more than 1,000 deserving men and women have found a true second chance and most importantly, a place to call home,” said JoAnne Page, CEO and President of the Fortune Society. “Finding a home is one of the first and most important steps toward rebuilding lives, and Castle residents have demonstrated that with strong support and resources, they can become contributing members of society.”
He showed the group how to prepare a salad that is crisp and full of texture. He also cautioned them against drowning the salad in dressing before it was time to serve. These small adjustments can make a significant nutritional difference. JoAnne Page, president and CEO of the Fortune Society, was impressed by the reaction Samuelsson received from the group. “He got people excited about salad,” she said. “What more could you ask?” The Fortune community of staff, friends, and partners came together this June to celebrate two incredible milestones– the birthday of our founder, David Rothenberg (4th from left, above), and the 10 year anniversary of "The Castle".
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Faces of Fortune Aurora Tompar-Tiu, MD BLC Psychiatrist
Eugene King Fortune Society Client
Erika Kocher Group Facilitator
Photo: Larry Bercow
As a practicing psychiatrist I have always used the bio psychosocial model in understanding psychiatric disorders and when treating patients. I firmly believe that in treating these patients, they are not only treated for their mental illness but they are also helped as a total person in the context of their experience and culture. When I started working with the patients at the Better Living Center (BLC), I was happy to see fathers show up who were “missing in action” while incarcerated. I used to feel angry at these parents who abandoned their children due to their criminal activities without knowing their stories. Now, I hear their stories, what happened to them when they were children, how they were abused and abandoned by their own parents and at times left to live in the streets. The anger I had felt was turned into a desire to understand their journey from incarceration to returning to their community. Some of them had suffered so much abuse while in jail and now wanted the chance to reunite with, and to rebuild, their families. The work in the BLC is very challenging and the road to recovery is long. One of my patients, who was incarcerated for more than 20 years, realized the importance of his mental health treatment at the BLC and shared with me these few lines, “I travel the road less travelled and that has made all the difference.”
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The Better Living Center (BLC)'s holistic treatment model facilitates a seamless transition for mentally ill individuals being released from incarceration by providing the supportive environment and therapy they need to manage their mental illness, while also making progress towards achieving their other reentry goals. But does it work? “Yes,” says Eugene, Fortune client and BLC participant. “My life has never been so full of purpose and peace.” Peace is new to Eugene, who witnessed extreme violence as an AfricanAmerican child growing up in 1950s Georgia. “The cops would sic dogs on people and beat them,” he grimaces, recalling the disturbing childhood experiences that led to his developing both Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. As it turned out, these traumatic experiences also laid the foundation for a legacy of anger and addiction that has landed Eugene in prison more than a few times. Eugene will tell you that he still remembers the moment he first understood the connection between his anger and his childhood trauma. “I was in therapy one day, when I suddenly realized that I've always lost my temper when I was being abused,” he recalls. “But now I've learned how to be mindful. I've learned restraint.” “I'm so focused, and so appreciative that The Fortune Society now has a mental health component, because I know that what has happened in my life can happen for others,” Eugene smiles. “This is a new life. I don't take
During my senior year of high school I was given the opportunity to pursue my interest in the criminal justice system by taking part in New Visions: Law and Government, a program that allows students to shadow law and government professionals. Following that I devoted my undergraduate studies to psychology and sociology. When I entered graduate school, I knew I was ready to focus on the field of forensic psychology and counseling. As part of my graduate program, I was required to complete a six hundred hour externship. I chose to extern at The Fortune Society because not only does it offer an array of services to its clients, but it also gives them a second chance. I was placed in The Better Living Center, which allowed me to put the knowledge of counseling I gained in school to practical use. I cannot describe how fulfilling it was to work with individuals on a weekly basis and see the impact that we were able to have. However, I feel that the impact that those individuals had on my life was far greater than my impact on theirs. I have now moved on to a new phase in my life and I am happy to say that Fortune is still part of my experience. I now work in Group Services as a facilitator and continue to learn from the staff and clients alike. I look forward to working here in the months and years ahead.
News from the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP) INTRODUCTION In 2007, The Fortune Society launched the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP). While Fortune has always engaged in advocacy and community education, DRCPP resourced and ramped up Fortune's policy development, advocacy, technical assistance, training, and community education efforts. DRCPP leverages Fortune's internal expertiseâ€“including the life experience of our formerly incarcerated staff and clients and our first-hand experience as a direct reentry service providerâ€“to advocate for a fairer criminal justice system; promote effective program models and needed supports for people with criminal justice histories; and change the counterproductive laws and policies that create unfair barriers to the successful reentry of people with criminal justice histories into our communities.
THE WORD IN REFORM Glenn E. Martin, DRCPP Director and VP of Development and Public Affairs In the United States, the mass incarceration of minority communities and the resulting mass reentry have created the "perfect storm" to ensure that criminal record based employment discrimination serves as a surrogate for race-based discrimination. Jobseekers with criminal records are often at the "back of the lineâ€?. But on April 25, 2012, in a 4 to 1 vote, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) showed tremendous leadership by issuing a revised guidance encouraging the hiring of individuals with records by clarifying the application of Title VII to criminal records. This decision gives jobseekers with criminal records additional protections that will help them to successfully enter the labor market. With 2.3 million people currently incarcerated, the United States has the distinction of leading the world in mass incarceration. The sheer scale of arrest, prosecution and incarceration of people of color has resulted in the phenomenon of mass incarceration. Based on current rates of first incarceration, an estimated 32% of black males will enter State or Federal prison during their lifetime, compared to 17% of Hispanic males and 5.9% of white males. Black males ages 20-30 have significantly higher rates of incarceration than other racial groups. 4 The Fortune News
An estimated 1 in 3 black men ages 1634 has a criminal record; 12% of black men in that age group are incarcerated; roughly twice that number is on probation or parole. According to the Justice Policy Institute in Washington D.C., the criminal justice system is so pervasive in the lives of black men that more of them have done prison time than have earned college degrees. The by-product of mass incarceration-mass reentry--means that this year alone 700,000 people will return to their communities from prison. Millions more will cycle through our courts and be placed under some other form of correctional supervision. More than half of these men & women come from and return to impoverished communities that are ill-equipped to respond to the large number of returning citizens. These individuals are expected to find & maintain gainful employment. However, in recent decades, state and local legislatures have promulgated a wide array of laws and policies that make it increasingly difficult for people with criminal records to enter the labor market, even those who have fully paid their debt to society and have demonstrated that they are capable of becoming productive, tax-paying citizens. Legal restrictions, occupational bars, inadvertent and deliberate employment discrimination, and the cultural stigma associated with having a criminal record have prevented many from obtaining employment. In addition, researchers from around the country confirm that the majority of private sector employers have little interest in hiring people with criminal records. When many individuals inevitably fail to reintegrate and are reincarcerated, they are not the only ones who suffer. Their families,
communities, and indeed the entire country are impacted. Finding effective ways to manage their reentry into society and the workforce is critical to promoting public safety and curbing recidivism rates and the high costs of re-incarceration. According to the new EEOC guidance, employers must consider the age and seriousness of the offense, and its relevance to the job the applicant is applying for. Employers must also now conduct individualized assessments when screening applicants with criminal records. This new provision will offer qualified jobseekers a chance to explain their involvement with the criminal justice system, in addition to providing them an opportunity to share evidence of rehabilitation. This will help by offering jobseekers with criminal records a chance to compete on their merits. The new guidance also encourages employers to consider recent research on "desistance" when designing their human resource policies. This is an especially important provision, since most employers rely on often ill-informed and misguided notions about risk and recidivism. The Fortune Society praises the EEOC's action as a welcome step forward. Changes in technology have greatly increased employer access to personal background information and more small and medium-sized employers obtain criminal background information as a matter of practice. According to The Fortune Society's research, businesses want to hire individuals with records, and are looking for knowledge on how to make informed decisions on using criminal justice information. EEOC's updated guidance will provide that information, and will aid these employers by expanding the labor pool of muchneeded qualified workers. www.fortunesociety.org
The halls of The Fortune Society are always busy with the hum of activity as clients and staff work together on a variety of activities. However, found in one corner is a calm and welcoming haven – The Better Living Center. Here individuals who were formerly incarcerated or involved in the criminal justice system (including those enrolled in Fortune's Alternatives to Incarceration programs), are able to find help in coping with mental health issues. These greatly needed services are now being made available to anyone who is formerly incarcerated or currently in the criminal justice system. The Better Living Center opened on July 1st of 2011, becoming the first facility of its kind. As Patricia Brown, LCSW, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Forensic Behavioral Health Services at DOHMH said regarding the Center's opening, “We are thrilled as this becomes the only agency in New York City to exclusively target the population of formerly incarcerated individuals.” Currently, The Better Living Center is staffed with a 5 The Fortune News
psychiatrist, social workers, a nurse and a clinic director. Mental health clinics often have long waiting lists. Further, other barriers prevent individuals with criminal justice involvement from accessing mental health services. These barriers include the need for cultural competence, facility policies against working with people suffering from substance abuse or undiagnosed mental health problems, cultural stigma to seeking mental health treatment and a lack of health insurance. Perhaps most significantly, “People at other types of facilities don't understand the particular needs of the population served by The Fortune Society,” points out Damien Cabezas, former Vice President of Program Services. JoAnne Page, The Fortune Society's president, further explains that having such services available at The Fortune Society helps to immediately overcome the stigma and other forms of resistance individuals sometimes feel to
seeking help with mental health issues. “The mental health clinic becomes just part of the array of re-entry services offered,” says Ms. Page. “It's a soft referral in a place where people already feel safe and it means that you're able to get people into mental health services.” The Better Living Center may have officially opened its doors in July 2011, but the real work began several years before. Starting in 2008, Fortune conducted focus groups with clients and staff about the need for mental health services. After meeting with the staff it became clear that culturally competent mental health services were needed. Further, during focus groups with Fortune Society clients many expressed feelings of depression, anxiety and trauma associated with having been incarcerated. Not only was Fortune seeing the need first hand, but statistics confirm that roughly 15% of people who are incarcerated have serious mental illness, with many more encountering emotional and mental health issues during the reentry process. www.fortunesociety.org
Fortune's New On-Site Mental Wellness Clinic The lack of proper treatment and planning for incarcerated individuals with mental health disorders increases the barriers to successful reentry into the community. Individuals with mental health disorders and on parole or probation are twice as likely as people without mental illness to have their community supervision revoked. Fortune's board and CEO were committed to filling this void. This passion, coupled with the Fortune Society’s grant writing team and support from other executives, eventually resulted in a $200,000 grant from the Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation. In addition, we also received $50,000 in funding for the BLC from the vanAmeringen Foundation, whose President, Henry vanAmeringen, is a long-time personal donor to Fortune and a friend of David Rothenberg. Lastly, the David Rockefeller Fund – which has provided past support for Fortune's baseline services and policy/advocacy work – invested $30,000 in the BLC in its first year of operation. These grants provided start-up funding for the clinic to support a full-time psychiatrist and social workers, as well as covering the cost of an evaluation program to determine future directions for the clinic. In addition, recognizing that the need goes far beyond the New York City population being served by The Fortune Society, the grant includes the development of a model program that organizations in other areas can use to launch a mental health program of their own. The Center is already serving over 100 individuals, and has the capacity to serve 550 in three years. To date all of those benefitting from these services are current clients that have been referred to the Better Living Center by Fortune Society counselors or other staff members. In the future, external referrals may come from Riker's, the New York State Office of Mental Health, and from different courts, government agencies, nonprofit providers, and medical centers. “Until this Center opened there was really nowhere for the judicial system to refer individuals for treatment,” Mr. Cabazas explained.
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CLIIENT TESTIIMONIIAL “I’ll always remember the ‘light bulb’ moment when I first understood the connection between my anger issues and the trauma I experienced as a child. It was like suddenly I had the power – not my past; not my anger. My therapy sessions at the Better Living Center have since become so interesting and rewarding for me that I really look forward to going each week. I guess I finally realized that I need that outlet. I need to sit down with someone who will not only listen, they’ll understand what I’m going through and point me in the right direction. Abraham Lincoln said, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Well, I may not have that many years left, but the life I live now is full of purpose and peace. I’m so focused, and so appreciative that Fortune now offers mental health services. This is my life, and I’ll never take it for granted again.” -Eugene T. King, Fortune Client and BLC Participant
The Better Living Center (BLC) was named in accordance with Fortune's vision – that by receiving culturally competent mental health services by highly skilled staff, clients will be living better and will be better able to cope with mental illness or with other emotional issues they may be experiencing as a result of having been in the criminal justice system.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE BLC: We encourage you to come by and meet with one of our dedicated BLC clinical staff members. Walk-in "screening" hours are from 9:00am7:00pm Monday through Wednesday, 9:00am-8:00pm Thursdays and 9:00am-5pm Fridays. We ask that you come early in the day if possible, so that we can take the time to understand and begin addressing your needs. To Schedule An Appointment: Please call 212-691-7554 ext 370, and ask for Jazzi Zzaman, BLC Administrative Assistant. We look forward to speaking to you soon!
On the Record–Notes from our Founder, David Rothenberg In the late 1960's, when The Fortune Society was in its infancy, Eddie Morris walked through our doors. He was fresh out of prison, nearly 40 years old, with more than 25 years of juvenile and adult institutional life. He had the scars, mental and physical, from too many years in a cage. He was looking for a new life, but he was fighting to overcome his past. One day, he joined a group of us driving to a speaking engagement in Westchester County. As we motored through the parks and pastures, I commented on the scenery and the serenity it conveyed. Eddie turned to me and recited a verse of beautiful poetry. He was the last man in the world you would suspect of quoting a poet. I asked him whose words he was recalling. “Lord Byron,” he said. I inquired, “Do you know other poets?” He made it clear, “only Lord Byron.” He told me that when he was about 17, doing time in Caxsackie, he was thrown into solitary for six months. He had a cot, a sink, a toilet and a shower once a week. And for some inexplicable reason, there was one book in his cell, “The Complete Works of Lord Byron.” I'll never forget the expression on his face when he told me, “Lord Byron saved my sanity. No teenager should ever be confined like that. Lord Byron's poems brought beauty into my dungeon. That's what kept me going.” That was the first of hundreds of stories I would hear about “the hole.” In John Herbert's prison drama, “Fortune and Men's Eyes,” an inmate tells a new fish, “You ain't done hard time kid until they throw you into solitary. You eat, crap, jerk and flop, all in a six by six. It's real cozy if you don't go haywire in the first month. A couple of goons smashed their own heads on the brick wall, wide open like eggs. They figgered they was better off in a hospital than locked in a cage.” Since hearing Eddie's story, I have visited hundreds of prisons around the country and I always ask about seeing solitary. I've talked with men in solitary at Danemora and Rikers Island
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in New York, Trenton in New Jersey and at the state prisons in Delaware and New Mexico. It was as if the bowels of the Earth had opened up. I was witness to men in the most inhuman conditions conceivable.
"Fortune in My Eyes: A Memoir of Broadway Glamour, Social Justice, and Political Passion" – a new book by David Rothenberg
The question I always asked was, “how many men in solitary will be released from prison someday and how will they be able to function in society after such dehumanizing conditions?” That is a question to which prison authorities are never able to provide a response. Sadly, the answer is frequently reported in the news, which glibly announces that an inexplicable violent act was committed by a formerly incarcerated person. Rarely does a reporter dig deep into the story. The prison system is never held accountable for its acceleration of violence and uncharted rage. Quite simply, our collective form of severe punishment is a contributing factor to crime in America. The high recidivist rate is a measure of the prison's failure. Solitary confinement is the prison system's admission that it is incapable of reclaiming lives. They send back to society an army of angry, broken men and women. The prison system will only be able to re-conceptualize when it no longer is a money making operation. At a political level, prisons are maintained to keep jobs in isolated areas. But alternative employment can be created. The barrier to change is the great profits made by corporations which contract with prisons, and feed the pockets of campaigning office holders. Eddie Morris never went back to prison. We stayed in touch for about a decade, as he struggled to find a place for himself. A few years ago he called me from a hospital, where he was in his final days. He never had a life that could be called self fulfilling. But whenever I see a poem by Lord Byron, I am thankful that he gave that troubled boy some beauty and insight.
David Rothenberg founded The Fortune Society in 1967 after producing "Fortune and Men's Eyes," a controversial play about the horrors of the prison system, with his life savings. You can get the full story in his new book, available for purchase through The Fortune Society ($29.99 + S&H, $15 + S&H for incarcerated individuals). To order David's book today, simply send a letter with your name, address, and the number of copies you'd like to order–along with a check payable to The Fortune Society–to the address listed below: The Fortune Society ? Fortune in My Eyes Order 29-76 Northern Boulevard Long Island City, NY 11101
Center Stage In 1961, at the age of 19, Wilbert Rideau was convicted of murder by an all-white, all-male jury, after killing a bank teller in the aftermath of a botched robbery. Ten years later, his death sentence was commuted to life in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Rideau became editor of the Angolite, and was instrumental in transforming it into the best prison publication in the country, publishing exposes on prison violence, segregation, and sexual slavery. (For an example of his work, read ”Why Prisons Don’t Work,” published by Time in 1994.) He won journalism awards, published a book called Life Sentences, and collaborated on a film about Angola, The Farm. He was finally retried, convicted of manslaughter, and released on time served in 2005, after 44 years in prison.
Rideau’s story is receiving renewed attention because of his 2010 memoir, In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance. The excerpt that’s been made public by the publisher is a powerful chapter called “Solitary.” Rideau spent more than three years in solitary confinement, as well as eight more in a one-man cell on death row. What follows is a small sample from Rideau’s compelling memoir. Excerpt above written by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella of www.solitarywatch.com.
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This is my reality. Solitude. Four walls, graygreen, drab, and foreboding. Three of steel and one of bars, held together by 358 rivets. Seven feet wide, nine feet long. About the size of an average bathroom or— and my mind leaps at this— the size of four tombs, only taller. I, the living dead, have need of a few essentials that the physically dead no longer require— commode, shower, face bowl, bunk. A sleazy old mattress, worn to thinness. On the floor in a corner, a cardboard box that contains all my worldly possessions—a writing tablet, a pen, and two changes of underwear. The mattress, the box, and I are the only things not bolted down, except the cockroaches that come and go from the drain in the floor and scurry around in the shower. This is my life, every minute of the year. I’m buried alive. But I’m the only person for whom that fact has meaning, who feels it, so it’s immaterial… One . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . five . . . turn. One . . . two . . . three . . . It’s not right to make a man live like this, alone. But I can take it. I can whip this motherfucker. I am stronger than anything they can do to me. The more they do, the stronger they make me. I actually smile. Haven’t I endured and risen above an experience that would crush most men? One . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . five . . . turn. Yeah, I’ve seen men broken, destroyed by solitary. Some have come to fear every shadow. Others have committed suicide. Some men would do anything to escape this cell. Some feigned insanity so they could go to a mental institution. Even more cut themselves, over and over, until the Man, fearing a suicide on his watch, moved them out of solitary. Others stayed doped up, whenever they could get the dope. Engaging in such tricks, though, is beneath my dignity; it’s unmanly. I am stronger than the punishment. The only way to beat it, to rise above it, is to regard the punishment as a challenge and see my ability to endure it while others cannot as a victory. Whenever another man falls under the pressure, it’s a triumph for me. Callous, some would call me. A man falls, broken, insane, or dead, and I feel nothing except triumph. But this is no place for pity— not for the next man, nor for myself. It would break me. The hard truth about solitary is that each man must struggle and suffer alone.”
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Suffering in Solitary PRISON ISOLATION CELLS HOLD THOUSANDS OF INMATES WITH MENTAL ILLNESS By James Ridgeway and Jean Casella, Co-Directors of Solitary Watch A 2003 report from Human Rights Watch found that, based on available data from states throughout the country, one-third to one-half of prisoners held in “secure housing units” (SHUs), and “special management units” (SMUs) suffered from mental illness. Since the total population of inmates in solitary confinement is thought to number 75,000 or more, tens of thousands of prisoners with mental illness may be in isolation on any given day. The Human Rights Watch report concluded that “persons with mental illness often have difficulty complying with strict prison rules, particularly when there is scant assistance to help them manage their disorders…. eventually accumulating substantial histories of disciplinary infractions; they land for prolonged periods in disciplinary or administrative segregation.” In other words, they are placed in solitary precisely because they display the symptoms of untreated mental illness. Given that isolation has been shown to cause severe psychological trauma in prisoners without underlying psychiatric conditions, it would be difficult to imagine a more damaging place to incarcerate the mentally ill. At the all-solitary Colorado State Penitentiary, Troy Anderson has spent the last 10 years in isolation, never seeing the sun or the surrounding mountains. Anderson has been diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, anti-social personality disorder, cognitive disorders, a seizure disorder and poly-substance dependence, and he has attempted suicide many times, starting at the age of 10. His mental health treatment in prison has consisted largely of intermittent and inappropriate medications and scant therapy, most of it conducted through a slot in his solid steel cell door. By Colorado's own estimate, 37 per cent of the prisoners 9 The Fortune News
in its isolation units are mentally ill. In 2006, 21-year-old Timothy Souders died of heat exhaustion and dehydration at a Jackson, MI prison during an August heat wave. For the four days prior to his death, Souders had been shackled to a cement slab in solitary confinement because he had been acting up. That entire period was captured on surveillance videotapes, which according to news reports clearly showed his mental and physical deterioration. His suffering may have been further exacerbated by antipsychotic drugs, which raise the body temperature and cause dehydration. Terry Kupers, a professor at the Wright Institute in Berkley and a nationally recognized expert on the psychological effects of solitary confinement, testified in a Wisconsin case “confinement of prisoners suffering from serious mental illnesses, or who are prone to serious mental illness or suicide, is an extreme hazard to their mental health and wellbeing.” A California judge put it somewhat differently: In a case concerning Pelican Bay State Prison, he said that placing prisoners with mental illness in solitary confinement was “the mental equivalent of putting an asthmatic in a place with little air.” Research indicates that even for prisoners without underlying mental illness, long-term solitary confinement can alter neural and therefore psychological states. One study found that those in solitary developed psychopathologies at higher rates than those in the general population (28 percent vs. 15 percent). Wilbert Rideau, a renowned prison journalist (and now a free man), describes in his recent memoir In the Place of Justice the "bone-cold loneliness" of life in solitary confinement on Angola's death row--“removed from family or anything resembling a friend, and just being there, with no purpose or meaning to my life, cramped in a cage smaller than an American bathroom. Deprivation of both physical exercise and meaningful social interaction were so severe...that some men went mad while others feigned lunacy in order to get transferred to the hospital for the criminally insane."
In recent years, lawsuits and grassroots movements in Illinois, Maine, New York, and elsewhere have spurred policies or legislation limiting the use of solitary confinement on prisoners with serious mental illness. In New York, for example, such inmates are supposed to be moved to special residential mental health units, or at least spend several hours a day outside of their isolation cells receiving treatment. These changes represent an important step toward more humane treatment of mentally ill prisoners. Yet even in these states, the diagnosis process is highly fallible, and the need for alternatives to solitary far outstrips the available resources. Until a major shift in thinking and policymaking takes place, there will continue to see thousands of inmates with mental illness suffering in solitary.
Solitary Watch is a public website aimed at bringing the widespread use of solitary confinement and other forms of torture in U.S. prisons out of the shadows and into the light of the public square. Solitary Watch's mission is to provide the public—as well as practicing attorneys, legal scholars, law enforcement and corrections officers, policymakers, educators, advocates, and prisoners—with the first centralized source of background research, unfolding news, and original reporting on solitary confinement in the United States. Learn more today by visiting www.solitarywatch.com.
IN THE NEXT ISSUE QUESTION FOR OUR READERS:
in the next issue VOTER DISENFRANCHISEMENT A 2012 election retrospective, coming out Summer 2013.
What criminal justice and reentry issues do you believe President Obama should focus on in 2013, and why? Send your answers to the address listed below for a chance to be featured in our next issue!
FORTUNE NEWS SUBMISSIONS Please send articles, responses, letters to the editor, creative works, or other submissions to the following address to be considered for publication in a future issue of the Fortune News.
Fortune News Submissions c/o The Fortune Society 29-76 Northern Boulevard Long Island City, NY 11101 For more information, please contact The Fortune Society at 212-691-7554 or email@example.com.
(May 31, 2012 -New York, NY) â€“ Members of the New York Alternatives to Incarceration Reentry Coalition, including The Fortune Society, were joined by elected officials and hundreds of alternatives to incarceration (ATI) supporters in a rally to urge City, State and Federal leaders to increase funding and save ATI programs across New York State. On the steps of City Hall in Manhattan participants held signs and voiced their support for vital ATI and reentry programs that play an integral role in the Cityâ€™s overall effort to reduce crime.
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The Fortune Society 29-76 Northern Boulevard Long Island City, NY 11101
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In this issue of The Fortune News, discover The Better Living Center (TBLC) and the ways it seeks to aid reentry through mental health servi...
Published on Apr 4, 2017
In this issue of The Fortune News, discover The Better Living Center (TBLC) and the ways it seeks to aid reentry through mental health servi...