A local leader in the campaign to reduce the use of solitary confinement in Wisconsin prisons said recently that its opponents must work together to hold the state Department of Corrections accountable for how it treats prisoners – “the people in their care.”
Sarah Ferber, the Chippewa Valley organizer for JONAH/EXPO, added that “the use of solitary confinement for corrective actions does more damage to the individual than it does good.” Her comments came in response to a request by the Chippewa Valley Post for reaction to a lengthy analysis of solitary confinement by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (available elsewhere in the CVPost).
JONAH (Joining Our Neighbors, Advancing Hope) is a Chippewa Valley faith-based organization concerned with a wide array of social justice issues, including changes in the criminal justice system. EXPO (Ex-Prisoners Organizing) is a statewide group of formerly incarcerated individuals that works to end mass imprisonment and whose local organization is under the JONAH umbrella.
“Our prisons are filled with individuals who already have mental health concerns that are untreated, and the use of solitary confinement, particularly with those individuals, is causing additional trauma and increasing the need for further treatment,” Ferber said.
She added that spending more than 15 consecutive days in solitary confinement amounts to torture, and magnifies mental health issues.
“Other states and nations have learned to get by without it,” she said. “We can, too.”
Ferber noted that JONAH’s Criminal Justice Reform Team is also part of the statewide effort to curtail or end the use of solitary confinement.
“We believe in the inherent dignity of all people, including those who are living behind bars,” she said.
But, she added, it will require a unified effort to change the current system.
“If and when we come together, that is where the real change will be made,” she said.