We already know that prisoners are treated subhuman because they did the crime, right? But what civil liberties are prisons actively violating without and recourse? Below you will find out which prisons have dipped and dodged public scrutiny while actively violating federal laws.
10. RIKERS ISLAND
Location: New York City, New York
Number of inmates: 10,000+
Reported Incidents: Staff brutality, rape, abuse of adolescents and the mentally ill, and one of the nation’s highest rates of solitary confinement.
In 2008, 18-year-old Christopher Robinson, who had violated his probation for a juvenile robbery offense, was beaten and stomped to death in his cell in Rikers youth unit. An investigation revealed that the killers, two fellow prisoners, were part of what was known as “the program” The program was a secret society run by correctional officers at Rikers to extort and beat other inmates. The officers plead guilty but received no time for their involvement.
A 2012 lawsuit by the Legal Aid Society was filed to combat the unlawful and excessive force used by guards that often send prisoners to the hospital, costing the city millions in legal settlements. Despite the alleged complicity of staff, the Department of Corrections’ response has been to build more solitary cells at Rikers. Units are used for both violent offender, youth and the mentally ill.
9. WALNUT GROVE YOUTH CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
Location: Leake County, Mississippi
Number of prisoners: 1,450+
Reported Incidents: A Judge once called this facility, “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts” visited upon children as young as 13. Children at Walnut Grove were exposed to an ongoing amount of physical and sexual assaults, and psychological abuse including long-term solitary confinement.
The conditions at Walnut Grove violated the Constitution and faced state, federal, civil and criminal law violations. Guards regularly had sex with children and the facility’s pattern of rape among prisoners was the worst of “any facility in the nation”, said one court. Guards also were deemed excessively violent and often resorted to beating, kicking, and punching handcuffed and youths and frequently subjecting them to chemical restraints like pepper spray.
Since 2012, the facility has suspended its contract with the Private Prison corp. known as GEO.
8. REEVES COUNTY DETENTION COMPLEX
Location: Pecos, Texas
Number of prisoners: 3,750
Reported Incidents: Reeves houses illegal immigrants and is nothing short of perverse treatment towards them. Inmates face racism, discrimination, beatings that have led to death, sexual assault and withholding medical care.
In 2008, an epileptic 32-year-old detainee named Jesus Manuel Galindo died of a seizure in his solitary confinement cell. The prison medical staff only offered him Tylenol and to move him out of isolation so he could get help quickly when he had seizures. Galindo’s death sparked multiple riots and brought national attention to their treatment towards immigrant detainees.
Like the youth facility mentioned above, the private prison GEO Group was once again had a hand in breaking an inmates constitutional rights. Despite a long trail of complaints, lawsuits, and prisoner deaths, its annual revenues have grown steadily over the past two decades, reaching $1.7 billion last year. On the same day the Galindo lawsuit was filed, ICE awarded GEO a contract to operate another detention center in Texas.
7. JULIA TITWILER PRISON
Location: Wetumpka, Alabama
Number of inmates: 400
Reported Incidents: This woman’s prison includes a special segregation unit for the quarantine of female prisoners with HIV. Women prisoners who tested positive in Alabama were quarantined from the general prison population and not eligible for most work, education, rehab, and mental health treatment programs.
Women in all sections of Tutwiler face sexual abuse, including rape by prison staff, according to a complaint filed with the US Justice Department by the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative. From 2009 through 2011, six officers were indicted on charges of custodial sexual misconduct or custodial sexual abuse. All 6 officers plead guilty but only two served time.
Several Tutwiler prisoners have become pregnant after being raped by guards. And women who complained about staff abuse were often placed in solitary.
6. PELICAN BAY STATE PRISON
Location: Crescent City, California
Number of prisoners: 3,500 (1,500 in solitary)
Reported Incidents: The 1,500 inmates who live in solitary confinement spend 22.5 hours a day alone in windowless cells that’s about 7 x 11 feet. The remaining 90 minutes are spent alone in bare concrete exercise pens. With no phone calls allowed, prisoners can only access the world outside their cells through their feeding slots.
More than 500 Pelican Bay prisoners have lived in the SHU in excess of a decade, nearly 80 have been there for more than two decades, and one prisoner recently marked his 40th year in solitary. Two-thirds of these prisoners are serving prolonged time in the hole. Not because of misbehavior, but because corrections staff have labeled them gang members or associates of gang members.
Hunger strikes and riots have accompanied this mistreatment but not much has changed legally.
5 . MEN‘S CENTRAL JAIL AND TWIN TOWERS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
Location: Los Angeles, California
Number of prisoners: 9,500 combined
Reported Incidents: 4,500 complaints are filed each year against this Men’s correctional facility. Twin Towers and Men’s Central are overflowing with prisoners transferred there from overcrowded California prisons under the state’s court-ordered reorganization scheme. Reports of attacks by deputies at the twin facilities are often unprovoked or brought on by the slightest infractions. Its said that when a prisoner sustains multiple injuries in an attack, he is paraded around naked as a deputy yells ”gay boy walking,“ then placed in a cell, and beaten and raped by other inmates as deputies stand by.
The jail has remained quiet on the issue or has outright denied any allegation.
Due to the serious nature of the allegations against this jail, This LA jail is now subject to an ongoing FBI investigation.
4. Orleans Parish Prison
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Number of prisoners: 3,400
Reported Incidents: New Orleans city jail hit the national radar after Hurricane Katrina, when thousands of inmates were abandoned for days in flooded cells without food, water, ventilation, or electricity. Some of which standing in water for days that reached above their waist.
Almost half of all prisoners at OPP are pretrial, accused but not convicted of crimes. for some, this prison became a death sentence. According to investigations by the Justice Department, in the past two years, at least two inmates have managed to kill themselves while on suicide watch. One prisoner committed suicide by stuffing toilet paper into his mouth until he suffocated. A third died while being held in a five-point restraint. A fourth was found dead after being beaten and pepper sprayed. Prisoners also say that the guards supply them with drugs, and will often stand by while inmates fight themselves bloody.
Rape, beatings by deputies, inedible food, poor sanitation, and inadequate medical care are still immediate concerns for prisoners detained here.
3. TENT CITY JAIL
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Number of prisoners: 2,000
Prison Overview and Reported Incidents: In 1993, to save the county the cost of building a new jail, Arpaio (founder of this jail) set up hundreds of Army surplus tents and used them to house prisoners. Tent City now has more than 2,000 prisoners, most of them awaiting trial. The tents are unheated in winter and uncooled in summer. Temperatures inside them have been hit as high as 145 degrees. A few building are for showers and meals. This prison is nothing short of a concentration camp.
In a 2011 report, the Justice Department report found a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos in the jails run by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, based on the use of racial slurs and punishments for prisoners who fail to speak English. The federal lawsuit that followed is just one of the many legal actions against Arpaio, accusing him of corruption and incompetence as well as racial profiling. Arpaio has dodged all bullets, and in was just reelected to his sixth term.
2. ALLAN B. POLUNSKY UNIT (DEATH ROW)
Location: Livingston, Texas
Number of prisoners: 300+
Prison Conditions and Reported Incidents: The all-solitary Allan B. Polunsky Unit houses condemned Texans under some of the nation’s toughest death row conditions. The prisoners are housed in single cells on 22-hour-a-day lockdown, and even during their daily “recreation” hour, they are confined in separate cages. With no access to phones, televisions, contact visits, they remain in a makeshift tomb until execution day. Some have been known to commit suicide or waive their appeals rather than continue living under such conditions.
Insanity, depression, paranoia and mental health stability are all concerns for any prison that overuses solitary confinement. Unfortunately, not much has changed with this prison despite numerous lawsuits and petitions by families and prison activist groups.
1. US PENITENTIARY ADMINISTRATIVE MAXIMUM (FLORENCE, COLORADO)
Location: Florence, Colorado
Number of prisoners: 440
Prison Conditions and Reported Incidents: This prison is by far the most pro isolation prisons on the list. Many of its cells are equipped with built-in showers and automated chutes that open onto private concrete exercise yards. They constructed it this way so that occupants would never see a guard, fellow prisoner or even a visitor. A former warden interviewed by 60 Minutes called it “pretty close” to hell.
According to typesinvestigation.org investigations, it’s said that many prisoners at ADX wail, scream, and bang on the walls of their cells. Some mutilate their bodies with razors, shards of glass, sharpened chicken bones, writing utensils, and whatever other objects they can obtain. A number swallow razor blades, nail clippers, parts of radios and televisions, broken glass, and other dangerous objects. Others carry on delusional conversations with voices they hear in their heads, oblivious to reality and to the danger that such behavior might pose to themselves and anyone who interacts with them. Still others spread feces and other human waste and body fluids throughout their cells, throw it at the correctional staff and otherwise create health hazards at ADX. Suicide attempts are common and many have unfortunately been successful.
ADX residents have been the plaintiffs in a number of lawsuits claiming cruel and unusual punishment. Many lawsuits are either pending or dropped and there’s little to no movement with changing this prisons procedures.