Delaware’s ACLU wants to put an end to alternative solitary confinement

DELAWARE – The ACLU is raising awareness about the harm solitary confinement can do to an inmate.

A man by the name Angelo Clark was placed in a Secured Housing Unit for seven months also known as the SHU.

In 2015, the ACLU issued a lawsuit for the use of solitary confinement for people with mental disabilities to end, and that case was resolved in a settlement agreement in 2017. 47 ABC reached out to the Department Of Corrections and they say solitary confinement has been eliminated several years ago. And that was in response to years of work to change policies in order to eliminate the use of restrictive housing by adopting new standards to meet the needs for lengths of stay in disciplinary detention. However, the staff attorney with the ACLU says that’s not enough and in their latest case on this topic, Clark v. Coupethey argue that the practice of solitary confinement in Delaware prisons for people with mental illness is cruel and unusual punishment.

“I suspect what is happening is they’ve put lipstick on a pig. They’ve just changed the name of solitary confinement, then they say we no longer do that because we call it something else,” says Dwayne Bensing.

The DOC has created a new housing unit at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center which is the Residential Treatment Unit. The unit is set to provide treatment for mentally ill patients who have been held in maximum-security housing. However, staff attorney Dwayne Bensing says as a society we have to educate ourselves about the conditions of confinement.

“Even if you agree with the carceral system and that people should be punished and that they should be imprisoned, even if you agree I think most people don’t believe that people should be tortured in the way our current conditions of confinement permit,” he tells 47 ABC.

The ACLU says more changed needs to be done however, the Delaware Department of Corrections tells 47 ABC that Delaware’s success in eliminating restrictive housing has received national recognition. You can follow this case on the ACLU’s website.

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