About half a dozen inmates have filed a federal lawsuit against the Florida prison system to end solitary confinement in the state.
The attorneys at the Southern Poverty Law Center said that Florida’s percentage of prisoners in solitary confinement is double the national average and that the practice violates constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
“Solitary confinement is increasingly recognized in the United States and around the world as torture,” said Shalini Goel Agarwal, one of the attorneys who filed the suit in Tallahassee’s federal court. “It can have devastating psychological effects.”
Ruthy Mitchell of Jacksonville said that her 21-year-old daughter Angel Meddler has been held in isolation at Lowell Correctional Institution Annex for a large portion of the last three and a half years and her physical and mental state have gotten worse because of it.
Meddler was put in solitary confinement three days after arriving at the prison when she didn’t comply with a correctional officer’s order to do pushups. She was kept in solitary confinement after she drew more disciplinary charges in isolation and has been put on suicide watch at least a dozen times.
“It’s hard for her, and it’s hard for me,” Mitchell said, adding, “she’s not a bad person. She’s made mistakes.”
Laurette Philipsen, another former inmate, was in prison
for grand theft for eight and a half years at Lowell. She spent 28 days in solitary confinement and said it was her worse experience.
“You have no human contact with anybody,” she said. “You cannot talk to your family. It’s very difficult. And your mind starts playing games after about three days. And then, you don’t know what time of day it is … nighttime, or daytime. You have nothing to do but be in your cell.”
A Florida Department of Corrections spokesperson responded to the lawsuit with the following statement:
“An inmate is placed in close management when the inmate through his or her behavior, has demonstrated an inability to live in the general population without abusing the rights and privileges of others,” said Rob Klepper of Florida DOC.