Mr. Kenyatta is a prisoner rights activist and businessman who was released from prison 13 years ago. He spent time in solitary confinement at both of Ohio’s maximum-security prisons and was part of the ACLU lawsuit, Austin v Wilkinson, which drastically changed prisoner classification in Ohio to ensure more humane living conditions.
This post is part of the joint report between Disability Rights Ohio and the ACLU of Ohio – “Shining a Light on Solitary Confinement: Why Ohio Needs Reform.” Take action to reform solitary confinement in Ohio.
Justin committed a crime. He was found guilty of aggravated murder and robbery, along with two others.
The ACLU supports a woman’s access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion, by working to ensure that every woman can make the best decision for herself and her family without undue political interference. We also strive for an America free of discrimination against people with disabilities.
All polling locations must be physically accessible for people with disabilities, and each polling location must have one accessible voting machine. But does accessibility only mean technology and brick and mortar?
Time to Change Attitudes
When we think about barriers for voters with disabilities, we often think of physical barriers, but there are people barriers, too.
Often, when we as a society talk about reforming our criminal justice system, it’s about finding jobs for individuals released from prison or diverting them to treatment in the first place. Rarely do we focus on the conditions of incarceration and its impact on people once they’re released.
If you go without food for just eight hours, your body will decrease its use of energy, the heart will pump slower, you will produce less heat, and hunger pains build.
Earlier this year, the ACLU of Ohio watched in dismay as people in Ohio’s super-maximum security prison in Youngstown went on a hunger strike.
It was a chilly October last year when my colleague and I visited the super-maximum security (super-max) Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown. Before entering, I thought there was nothing more restrictive than the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, aka Lucasville prison. I could not have been more wrong.
You are locked inside a room the size of your bathroom for 23 hours a day and let outside for one hour, but only when it’s warm and only in a cage the size of a walk-in closet. Your meals are eaten inside this room, and there is limited reading and television access.
It doesn’t matter whether you call it local control, disciplinary control, administrative segregation, or restrictive housing, it’s extreme isolation. Putting people in solitary confinement is something the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed “physical and mental torture.”
Since 2012, Ohio has operated a tiered system in which prisoners are given a level ranging from 5b down to 1.
Putting people in isolation is devastating and makes recovery next to impossible. If you didn’t have a mental illness going into isolation, it’s likely you will have one coming out.
Research shows that prolonged solitary causes a persistent and heightened state of anxiety, nervousness, headaches, insomnia, nightmares, and confused thought processes.
If you think the worst of the worst are the only people in prison, think again.
Our addiction to incarceration has reached unprecedented levels. With only five percent of the world’s population, we have 25 percent of its prison population. Ohio is one of the top 10 prison states in the country and our prisons are dangerously overcrowded.
Our country’s public health is at risk. No, it’s not from Ebola or this year’s virulent strain of the flu.
It’s from mass incarceration.
A new report, “On Life Support: Public Health in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” issued by the Vera Institute of Justice, focuses on the alarming impacts of imprisonment on individual and community health.
Ever since smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel heralding Pope Francis as leader of the Roman Catholic Church, he has made headlines for addressing controversial social issues. So, it was no surprise when he recently discussed mass incarceration, he did it with the gusto politicians have never been unable to muster.
Imagine visiting your polling place on Election Day and discovering there is no parking, the sidewalk is blocked, and the door is locked. Yet, despite all this, you manage to get into the building only to find out the poll workers do not speak your language and the voting machine is out of reach.
Part Three – Politics Over Health:
Following an accidental approval of Women’s Med Center that was quickly rescinded, state leaders launched an internal investigation that lead to firings and retirements. Roy Croy, one of those retired health department chiefs, said, “Someone had to pay…politics are politics.” The state investigation revealed that the Ohio Department of Health created a watch list of clinics, and data shows the state is treating abortion clinics differently than other surgical centers.
Part Two – Losing Access:
The law does allow clinics to be granted an exception (known as a variance) to the transfer agreement requirement if they can prove that an alternative plan is in place for emergencies. However, HB59 also gave the Ohio Department of Health director wider scope to deny these exceptions than was previously granted.
Part One – The Bureaucratic Smoke Screen:
Since the 1970s, termination of pregnancy has become legal and accessible in most developed countries. In the U.S., however, women have experienced only barriers. With a focus on patients, opponents have used waiting periods; mandated, medically unnecessary tests; healthcare coverage bans; gestational limits; and required counseling to construct barriers to accessing abortion.
This is the seventh in a series of posts focusing on issues we will be tackling at the 2014 ACLU of Ohio biennial conference, Resist. Reclaim. Restore Your Rights!
Reproductive rights do not begin and end at abortion.
Rather, abortion is just one of many rights that run the full gamut of a woman’s life.