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Unlocking Solitary Confinement

Ending Extreme Isolation in Nevada State Prisons

A Report by
The ACLU of Nevada
Solitary Watch
Nevada Disability Advocacy & Law Center

February 2017

Across the United States, tens of thousands of people are locked alone in cells without any meaningful human interaction for weeks, years, and even decades at a time. Solitary confinement, the prolonged isolation of a person for more than 15 days, is considered cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment–and often torture–by the United Nations, and has been shown to cause permanent psychological and neurological damage. It is also notoriously difficult to count or measure.

This report was initiated in response to the Nevada Department of Corrections’ (NDOC) claims that the state does not use solitary confinement. However, complaints to the ACLU of Nevada (ACLUNV), Solitary Watch, the Nevada Disability Advocacy & Law Center (NDALC), and other prisoner’s rights organizations painted a very different picture.  Hundreds of individuals residing in the NDOC contacted these agencies complaining of long-term cell confinement and isolation.

In this report, ACLUNV, Solitary Watch, and NDALC sought to measure the extent to which solitary confinement is used in Nevada, as well as collect reports from the men and women actually experiencing prolonged isolation. We sent a comprehensive survey to 749 people incarcerated across the state. We found that solitary confinement is in fact widely used in the state of Nevada, often for prolonged periods of time, and that many of the people held there are denied basic human needs like daily exercise, sufficient medical care, or adequate amounts of food.

As Nevada’s protection and advocacy agency for Nevadans with disabilities, NDALC considers the practice of solitary confinement of inmates with severe mental illness, intellectual disabilities, and traumatic brain injuries to be cruel and unusual punishment and a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution.  Although NDALC is encouraged by the statements of the new Director of the NDOC, we will take all steps necessary, including litigation, to ensure the unconstitutional practice ceases against inmates with disabilities.

Unlocking Solitary Confinement, a report by The ACLU of Nevada, Solitary Watch and NDALC