Target: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justices.
Goal: To thank the justices for ruling to limit the amount of time a prisoner may be held in solitary confinement.
Commend the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for limiting the amount of time that an inmate may be placed in solitary confinement. On November 27, 2012, the Court ruled that holding an inmate for 10 months in solitary confinement with only periodic or no informal review of his custody was unlawful. While 10 months is still too long, it is a step forward not only for Massachusetts but also for the whole United States.
The case reviewed by the Supreme Judicial Court concerned inmate Edmund LaChance, who was placed in solitary confinement for throwing pudding on another inmate. He was initially sentenced to seven days in confinement though negligence by the prison staff and a lack of a review of his sentence kept him there for 10 months. While he was in solitary, LaChance was allowed five hours of exercise a week, two visits a week, and was denied participation in educational, religious, vocational or rehabilitative activities. When he was allowed outside of his cell, his wrists and ankles were chained at all times.
The court’s biggest opposition to the 10-month period that LaChance spent in solitary was that he did not have an effective mechanism for contesting his placement in solitary. He was not notified of the proceedings scheduled to determine his status and therefore denied an opportunity to speak on his own behalf. The most disturbing revelation of the case is that prison officials regularly sidestep regulations limiting the amount of time that prisoners can be put in solitary by giving them consecutive sentences instead of one long sentence. Although the ruling does not abolish the use of solitary confinement, the ruling does establish that future inmates will be assured of the right to challenge their incarceration in solitary confinement.
Commend the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for leading the way on this issue. Their decision will eventually impact tens of thousands of American inmates. As opposition to the use of solitary confinement grows, this ruling in Massachusetts is a ray of hope for those on the anti-solitary confinement argument.
Dear Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justices,
Thank you for ruling that inmates in Massachusetts may not be held in solitary confinement for longer than 10 months at a time. While it does not end the terrible practice of solitary confinement, it is the first step towards doing so. Your ruling paves the way for inmates to be able to contest their detention in solitary confinement. This is a chance that Edmund LaChance never had. Fortunately that will not be the case anymore.
Your ruling towards limiting the total amount of time a person may be held in solitary is a ray of hope for those of us who hope to end this punishment. Hopefully it will be an example for state governments across the United States who wants to respect the human rights of the inmates in the overcrowded prison system.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: philld via geograph.org.uk