Department of (in) Justice: We can lock up children in solitary confinement
The Department of (in) Justice recently submitted a motion in opposition to a lawsuit filed by mothers and their children who want ICE to stop torturing their children by placing them in solitary confinement.
The DOJ now can be called the DOIJ for its monstrous defense and advocacy for the following policy:
ICE also has family residential standards that govern discipline and cover, among other things, a situation where a resident has participated in the offense of “insurrection,” which is defined as “[p]articipation or encouraging another to participate in unauthorized activity such as protesting or rioting.” See ICE/DRO Residential Standard, Discipline and Behavior Management, at 17, attached hereto as Exhibit O.6
The ICE disciplinary standards state that their purpose is to “provide a safe and orderly living environment” at ICE family residential facilities, and to “manage discipline and behavioral problems in a manner that ensures the safety and welfare of staff, residents, and visitors.” Exhibit O at 1. “Insurrection” is considered a major offense at ICE family residential facilities, and under the standards requires separation from the general population. Id. at 16-17. Medical observation rooms may be used to facilitate this separation.
In other words, if a mother protests or encourages another to protest, DOJ, led by the lawyer-warrior in favor of locking up toddlers and children, Sarah B. Fabian, ICE has a right to punish the mothers’ children with solitary confinement.
In other parts of the United States (like our office), the DOJ’s position is not only wrong, but endorses the federal crime of deprivation of rights under color of law, 18 U.S.C. 242.
Whatever interests that ICE has in providing a safe and orderly living environment, it clearly does not mean that ICE can punish children with something that is widely considered torture because it causes extreme psychological harm:
Deprived of normal human interaction, many segregated prisoners reportedly suffer from mental health problems including anxiety, panic, insomnia, paranoia, aggression and depression, Haney says (Crime and Delinquency, 2003).
To Haney, evidence of these effects comes as no surprise. “It borders on being common sense, but it’s common sense with a lot of empirical research that supports it,” he says. “So much of what we do and who we are is rooted in a social context.”
Since the 1970s, research has been amassed indicating that solitary confinement does alter neural and therefore psychological states. One study examining the development of psychopathologies found that those in solitary developed pathologies at higher rates than those in the general population (28% vs. 15%).4 Another study of 20 prisoners who volunteered for a week of solitary confinement found that the prisoners exhibited decreased EEG activity, indicative of increased theta activity, which is related to stress, tension, and anxiety.5 Prisoners in solitary confinement have been found to engage in self-mutilation at rates higher than the general population.6
Extensive research on the impact of isolation has shown that adult prisoners generally exhibit a variety of negative physiological and psychological reactions to conditions of solitary confinement, including: hypersensitivity to stimuli;13 perceptual distortions and hallucinations;14 increased anxiety and nervousness;15 revenge fantasies, rage, and irrational anger;16 fears of persecution;17 lack of impulse control;18 severe and chronic depression;19 appetite loss and weight loss;20 heart palpitations;21 withdrawal;22 blunting of affect and apathy;23 talking to oneself;24 headaches;25 problems sleeping;26 confusing thought processes;27 nightmares;28 dizziness;29 self-mutilation;30 and lower levels of brain function, including a decline in EEG activity after only seven days in solitary confinement.31 One can reasonably conclude that, at a minimum, children too experience these negative effects.32 Indeed, given their stage of growth and development, children may be even less able than adults to handle solitary confinement.33 Psychologically, children are different from adults, making their time spent in isolation even more difficult and the developmental, What Is it Like for Children in Solitary Confinement? The devastating effects of solitary confinement on children have haunting consequences, as shown by this first-hand account from Lino Silva, written about her experience in solitary confinement in a juvenile facility in California: “Being in a room over 21 hours a day is like a waking nightmare, like you want to scream but you can’t. You want to stretch your legs, walk for more than a few feet. You feel trapped. Life becomes distorted. You shower, eat, sleep, and defecate in the same tiny room. In the same small sink, you ‘shower,’ quench your thirst, wash your hands after using the toilet, and warm your cold dinner in a bag. I developed techniques to survive. I keep a piece of humanity inside myself that can’t be taken away by the guards . . . There’s no second chance here.” Reassessing Solitary Confinement: The Human Rights, Fiscal, and Public Safety Consequences: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights of the S. Comm. on the Judiciary, 112th Cong. (2012) (statement of Sumayyah Washeed & Jennifer Kim, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Books not Bombs Campaign). Alone & Afraid | 4 psychological, and physical damage more comprehensive and lasting. They experience time differently—a day for a child feels longer than a day to an adult—and have a greater need for social stimulation.34 The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has concluded that, due to their “developmental vulnerability,” adolescents are in particular danger of adverse reactions to prolonged isolation and solitary confinement. 35
It looks like ICE has set a new precedent by subjecting children under the age of 5 to solitary confinement.
Ms. Fabian, in her zeal to defend the interests of the federal government to incarcerate children, must have overlooked a sentence from an earlier affidavit written by Chief of the Family Detention unit in ICE, Stephen Antkowiak, written on April 23, 2015, in which he swears under oath that: “ICE fully respects the rights of all individuals to express their constitutionally-protected rights of expression including the use of hunger strikes.”
I hope Mr. Antkowiak is prepared to defend himself on perjury charges because separation of mothers and children from the general population for commission of the major offense of protesting is exactly the opposite of fully respecting “the rights of all individuals to express their constitutionally-protected rights of expression.”