American Prison Conditions – The Harsh Reality

Prison corridor depicting American prison conditions

We may not think about American prison conditions until a loved one is facing criminal charges.

The harsh reality behind prison walls is enough to cause nightmares.

To illustrate how deplorable conditions can get, consider the case of Curtis Flowers. His case, his trials, and his insistence that he is innocent have been ‘featured in the second season of the podcast, In the Dark.  

Flowers is currently on death row in the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi.

Curtis Flowers’ case is notable because he has been tried six times for the same crime. Unfortunately, this is legal in our justice system.

His case is also noteworthy for the way it exposes the inequality in how juries are selected for the trials of black defendants and how this affects the outcome of their trials.

One of the Country’s Most Notorious Prisons

The other way in which Curtis Flowers’ case is notable is that he is an inmate at one of the country’s most notorious prisons – Parchman prison. It was formerly run like a plantation, as one of the last legal examples of slavery in modern times.

However, even with reforms, Curtis is one of many inmates who sit on death row in almost constant solitary confinement. This is not only happening at Parchman prison. It is happening all over the country.

Parchman prison is also notorious for its terrible conditions: cells that regularly reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, sewage backups, and rat infestations.

Cruel And Unusual Punishment

According to a report in the LA Times,

It is hard to tell exactly how many prisoners are in solitary each year in the United States. Today, 44 states allow it, but many states do not report how many inmates are held in solitary. A 2005 report from the Vera Institute of Justice estimated the number at 81,622.

The article goes on to explain that:

  • Those held in solitary confinement make it clear how inhumane the punishment is.
  • Hope is lost even among the most optimistic.
  • Many of the inmates repeatedly described that solitary confinement is like “being trapped in a coffin.”
  • Lights are occasionally kept on 24 hours a day.
  • It is common for inmates to have no access to books or reading material.
  • Inmates feel totally isolated as visits from lawyers and family members, including phone calls, are severely restricted.

The Bronx Defenders’ Solitary Confinement Project interviewed 59 prisoners who were being held or had been held in solitary at the jail on Rikers Island in New York City.

A majority of the inmates were awaiting trial and had not even been convicted of a crime. Sadly, the average age of the prisoners was 20.

The report stated that in excess of 90% of the Rikers Island prisoners interviewed had been held longer than 15 days in solitary confinement and  often far longer. This is despite the fact that the United Nations special rapporteur on torture has determined that time in excess of 15 days in solitary confinement is considered torture.

In addition, two inmates were scheduled to serve more than 1,000 days in solitary confinement. They had already been there months.

There is Hope

American prison conditions are disturbing. Many of us have no idea what life is like for inmates in prison, especially for those serving time for the most violent offenses.

If you or a loved one is facing charges, there is hope. Contact an experienced and aggressive criminal attorney. Call my office today.

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