Thursday, August 21, 2008

An update from the American Friends Service Committee in Michigan

AFSC Michigan Criminal Justice Program Update:

On August 6, the American Friends Service Committee's
Michigan Criminal Justice Program, in coalition with a newly formed
Michigan group called StopSeg, held a teach-in and rally in remembrance
of Timothy Souders. Timothy died of hyperthermia two years ago in a
segregation cell in a Michigan prison after being held in top-of-bed
restraints for four days. Nearly 50 people attended the teach-in
and/or rally, including Timothy's mother (who was the initiator of the
rally). The day was dedicated to lifting up the voices of people who
are currently held in long-term segregation units, observation units,
or top-of-bed restraints in Michigan's prisons.

People held in these units are
subjected to 23-24 hours of lock-down conditions. There is no
meaningful human contact or programming for people in long-term
segregation. All food is provided through a food slot in the door
three times per day; out-of-cell movement involves shackling of hands
and feet; showers are only provided three times per week; mental health
services are severely inadequate; the use of restraints and/or gas is
much more likely to occur in these cells because many of the people
held in them have mental illnesses and staff are not properly trained
to handle people in mental distress. in Michigan, the average duration
of time that people with whom we have corresponded spend in this severe
form of solitary confinement is 5.3 years. The longest time one
prisoner we work with has spent in long-term segregation is 25 years.

AFSC has been working on a report regarding the use of long-term
segregation in Michigan's prisons. We are aiming to release the report
sometime before the end of 2008. If people are interested in becoming
involved in the StopSeg campaign here in Michigan, please contact
Natalie at or 734-761-8283, ext. 5. Our next meeting is September 10 at Scott House, 125 W. Main Street in Lansing with a 4:30 PM starting time.

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