America’s Penal System: 16-year old in 23-hour/day solitary confinement committed suicide after 2-years awaiting trial – Tola Adenle

January 28, 2016

Society/Living, USA

The  posting’s title is about a recent story in America and is from  It was not the first such jailhouse suicide by an underage, nor is it likely to be the last unless something urgent is done about a penal system that sends under-age to jails with adult populations.

The siege of American society on its black population, especially the male population, and particularly on young males, has reached epic scale judging from the judicial killings of young black men in the last couple of years by policemen. Even when they end up in jails, they are not safe within the confined walls in the hands of prison authorities and their fellow inmates.

In America, there are Federal Prisons where those who commit crimes on the list of “federal crimes” such as holding up banks, kidnapping, highjacking, drug trafficking, mail fraud … end up. While the prisons that hold such felons are not as bad as state prisons, it is the latter in a country with states’ constitutionally-guaranteed rights to do what each wants, including how to “correct” criminals’ behavior in confinement before returning them to society that are crying out more for reforms. Many state prisons are run on  [sort of] consignment by contractors on commercial basis often located in communities where the institutions are the sole employers of labor for miles around.

President Obama recently directed that major policy changes for people held in solitary confinement in federal prisons should be reviewed. U.S. penal system either at federal or state level is generally stacked against African-Americans with a disproportionate percentage of its population – especially males – under various forms of state supervision: in prison, under parole supervision and other forms of non-freedom situations.
Reforms are long overdue, especially as mostly African-Americans tend to be at the receiving end of new harsh crime enforcements that target them more than Whites or other racial groups in a country with reportedly the highest rate of prisoners in the world.

Here are just some startling statistics:
While African-Americans supposedly constitute about 12% of the population for example, statistics show that 40% of prison inmates nationwide are African-Americans. [Stanford University Research Findings.]
• Several studies have concluded that overall, more black males are in prison than are enrolled in colleges and universities. In 2000 there were 791,600 black men in prison and 603,032 enrolled in college versus 1980, when there were 143,000 black men in prison and 463,700 enrolled in college. [Wikipedia]
• According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime.


Once prisoners, the lives of these men who are tortured, raped and treated with almost the same level of violence as during slavery, become irreparably changed. The mental and physical conditions of juvenile offenders – whites and blacks alike but worse for blacks – are worse on discharge than on entry. It is this group of prisoners, pregnant women and others with low level prison infractions, that Obama’s new reform policy on solitary confinement are aimed at.

The sordid aspect of “solitary confinement”, a situation that is supposed to correct prisoners’ behaviors or keep some at safe distances from general prison populations for their security, has become a weapon of inhuman cruelty and punishment-not-fitting-the-crime in the hands of guards. It sees prisoners sentenced to such on the orders of prison authorities for up to 23 hours a day  as in the case of the boy who committed suicide, without access to see or speak to any human. Anyone who has watched American jail-house documentaries and movies knows how subjective and cruel prison officers are in confining prisoners – mostly African-Americans – to solitary confinement for the smallest of infractions like talking back to guards, refusing to do what prisoners may consider to be against their human and civil rights.

The long foreword here is to provide a sketchy background on the use of solitary confinement that the U.S. President’s new prison reform policy guidelines are meant to address as well as let blog visitors not aware of US penal system understand that Obama’s policy-making does not and cannot affect state penitentiaries where most prisoners reside. Hopefully, it can set an example for state governments.


 What Obama’s Actions Mean for Solitary Confinement in America’s Prisons

SOLITARY WATCH/Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

In an op-ed published in the Washington Post, Obama begins by referencing the case of Kalief Browder, the young man who committed suicide after spending two years in pre-trial solitary confinement as a teenager on New York’s Rikers Island. Such “heartbreaking results,” the President writes, are the reason “why my administration is taking steps to address this problem.”

The policy recommendations also ban the use of Disciplinary Segregation for “low-level” disciplinary offenses, which include “Malingering/Feigning Illness,” “Abusive/Obscene Language,” and “Violating Visiting Regulations,” among others, as well as for first instances of “moderate-level” offenses, which range from “Destroying Property ≤ $100” to “Being Unsanitary/Untidy” to “Smoking in Unauthorized Area.”

Here is the link to the story:


THURSDAY, JANUARY 28, 2016.   10:45 p.m. [GMT]

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