Andrews Testimony Before Senate Judiciary on Solitary Confinement 2012
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TESTIMONY of Stuart M. Andrews, Jr. on behalf of: Joy C. Jay, Guardian ad Litem for T.R., P.R., K.W., and A.M. on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated; and Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. on Reassessing Solitary Confinement: The Human Rights, Fiscal, and Public Safety Consequences before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Committee on the Judiciary United States Senate JUNE 19, 2012 Mr. Chairman, Senator Graham, and Members of the Subcommittee, Nelson Mullins represents a class of inmates with serious mental illness in South Carolina prisons, many of whom have spent significant time in solitary confinement. I am appearing today on behalf of that class and its guardian ad litem, Joy C. Jay, as well as on behalf of Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. (P&A), a South Carolina nonprofit organization charged by state and federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. In June 2005, the inmate class and P&A filed suit in South Carolina state court against the South Carolina Department of Corrections, alleging violations of the South Carolina Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and seeking injunctive relief. After more than six years of litigation, a bench trial was held in February and March of 2012. No ruling has been issued yet. A major issue at trial was the placement of inmates diagnosed with serious mental illness in solitary confinement. A. Theodore Robinson Theodore Robinson is a 50-year old man with paranoid schizophrenia serving a life sentence in the South Carolina Department of Corrections. Mr. Robinson's speech is highly disorganized and he has a history of bizarre behavior, such as drinking his urine. Like many people with schizophrenia, he suffers from hallucinations and delusions. For example, he believes that at night while he sleeps doctors secretly enter his cell and perform surgery on him. From 1993–2005, a period of twelve consecutive years, Mr. Robinson was kept in solitary confinement. On June 20, 2005, Mr. Robinson and two other mentally ill inmates, as 2 representatives of a class of inmates with serious mental illness, sued the South Carolina Department of Corrections for improved mental health treatment. Fifteen days after the lawsuit was filed, the Department removed Mr. Robinson from solitary and placed him in a psychiatric residential program. Ex. 1. B. Overrepresentation of Mentally Ill Inmates in Solitary Confinement Other South Carolina inmates with serious mental illness have not been so lucky. In South Carolina mentally ill inmates are twice as likely to be placed in solitary as inmates without mental illness; two and a half times as likely to receive a sentence in solitary that exceeds their release date from prison; and over three times as likely to be sentenced to an indefinite period of time in solitary, a classification known as "security detention." Ex. 2. The South Carolina Department of Corrections has designated three maximum security prisons as its "area mental health centers" for male inmates: Lee, Lieber, and Perry Correctional Institutions. As of September 1, 2011, 19 percent of the total inmate population in these three prisons was diagnosed as mentally ill. However, the percentage of mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement in these prisons was 34 percent. Ex. 3. Clearly, mentally ill prisoners are disproportionately represented in solitary confinement units. Mentally ill inmates placed in solitary confinement in South Carolina prisons are not limited to those with mild mental disorders. Like Theodore Robinson, many are diagnosed with schizophrenia or other serious mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, or major depression. A Department of Corrections psychiatrist at Lee Correctional Institution has estimated that 40-50 percent of her caseload patients in solitary confinement were "actively psychotic." Ex. 4. 3 C. Conditions and Access to Mental Health Services in Solitary Confinement Units Testimony at the T.R. trial confirmed that inmates in solitary are confined to their cell 23-24 hours a day. They are not allowed to hold a prison job or to attend educational classes, religious groups, or any structured therapeutic activities. Phone calls and visitation often are severely restricted. Sessions with psychiatrists and mental health counselors are rarely held in confidential settings, but instead in the presence or hearing of correctional officers and other inmates. Sessions with psychiatrists and counselors are not only lacking in confidentiality, they are infrequent and irregular. Edward Barton is another South Carolina inmate who, like Theodore Robinson, is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Mr. Barton has spent the past eight years in solitary. He is scheduled to be released from prison in 2016, straight from solitary confinement into society. Mr. Barton has visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations. For example, he sees dead people and floating fire; voices tell him his relatives are dead and order him to set his cell on fire; he feels flames burning his arms and the soles of his feet. By policy, Mr. Barton is supposed to see a mental health counselor every 30 days, but his medical records show that during a sixteen-month period from July 2008 to November 2010 there were: • six occasions where over 30 days passed without a counseling session; • four occasions where over 60 days passed without a counseling session; and • one period of 9 months without a counseling session. Ex. 5. Mr. Barton's contact with psychiatrists while in solitary is also limited. During one eleven-month period in 2010-2011 he went four months without seeing a psychiatrist, then went another six months before seeing a psychiatrist again. Ex. 6. 4 D. Lengths of Stay in Solitary Edward Barton and Theodore Robinson are not the only South Carolina inmates with mental illness who have spent years in solitary confinement. Evidence presented at trial showed that other inmates with serious mental illness have been confined in solitary for five years, ten years, or longer. In South Carolina there are two forms of solitary confinement sentences: (1) disciplinary detention (DD), in which an inmate is sentenced to a specific length of time in solitary; and (2) security detention (SD), in which an inmate is sentenced to an indefinite length of time in solitary. As of September 1, 2011, the average cumulative DD sentence for South Carolina inmates without mental illness was 383 days; for inmates with mental illness the average cumulative DD sentence was 657 days. Ex. 7. The Department has a policy called "Guilty But Not Accountable" or "GBNA," which in theory should reduce time served in solitary confinement for mentally ill inmates, but which in practice is meaningless. Under the policy, when a mentally ill inmate is charged with a disciplinary infraction his mental health counselor makes a recommendation to a hearing officer on whether the inmate should be held accountable for his actions. The Department's mental health counselors, however, are not qualified to make such determinations, as only thirteen percent are licensed. Ex. 8. Counselor attitudes towards accountability are reflected in the testimony of the Regional Mental Health Coordinator for one of South Carolina's four administrative regions, who testified under oath as follows: Q: What effect does mental illness have on an inmate's ability to. . . to comply with rules of prison? A: None. 5 Q: None? A: None. Ex. 9. Given such attitudes, it is not surprising that the GBNA policy has had no effect on the solitary confinement sentences of mentally ill inmates. A review of Departmental records of 1,252 mentally ill inmates sentenced to solitary confinement from 2009-11 revealed that only 25 (2%) had been found GBNA. Moreover, for those 25 inmates the finding that they were not accountable for their actions had had absolutely no effect on the length of their sentence in solitary. Ex. 10. E. Crisis Intervention A particularly disturbing form of solitary confinement in South Carolina is the practice known as crisis intervention. Although crisis intervention is considered a clinical status for inmates who are suicidal or threatening self harm, the Department places crisis inmates naked in stripped-out solitary confinement cells located in disciplinary lockup units. Inmates testified that on crisis they seldom receive a blanket, are never provided a mattress, and are forced to sleep on concrete or steel bunks. Inmates describe crisis intervention cells as cold and filthy, with floors and walls smeared with the blood and feces of previous inhabitants. Lengths of stay in crisis cells typically range from a few days to two weeks, but records show some inmates are kept in crisis for months. Except for greater restrictions, inmates in crisis are treated as other inmates in solitary. Inmates testified that when on crisis they remain in their cells 24 hours a day, seldom shower, are not allowed to participate in structured therapeutic activities, and rarely see a psychiatrist. Contact with mental health counselors is through the cell door, brief, impersonal, and not confidential. 6 From 2008-2010 at least one South Carolina prison, Lieber Correctional Institution, routinely placed crisis inmates naked in shower stalls, rec cages, interview booths, and holding cells for hours and even days at a time, as documented in Department logs. Ex. 11. Typically, these spaces did not have toilets and were not suicide resistant. F. Death by Neglect: Jerome Laudman and Lee Supermax Perhaps the single most deplorable solitary confinement unit in the South Carolina prison system is the cellblock at Lee Correctional Institution known as Lee Supermax. Department officials insist this is not a true maximum security unit and prefer to characterize it as the "cells with private showers." Lee Supermax cells do, in fact, have private showers controlled by security staff, but the shower drains are stopped up, according to inmate testimony. As a result, when the showers are turned on they flood the cells, leaving standing water six inches high. Inmates describe the cells as cold, vermin-infested, and filthy. On February 18, 2008 an inmate named Jerome Laudman was found in a Lee Supermax cell, lying naked without a blanket or mattress, face down on a concrete floor in vomit and feces. He died later that day in a nearby hospital. The cause of death was a heart attack, but hospital records also noted hypothermia, with a body temperature upon arrival at the hospital of only 80.6 degrees. Ex. 12 at 900-01, 909. On June 8, 2008 an internal investigator for the Department of Corrections issued a report on Mr. Laudman's death. Ex. 12. That investigative report is the source for the following information. Jerome Laudman suffered from schizophrenia, mental retardation, and a speech impediment. Ex. 12 at 908. According to his mental health counselor, Laudman had never acted in an aggressive or threatening manner. Id. at 909. On February 7, 2008 – eleven days 7 before his death – Laudman was moved to Lee Supermax, purportedly for hygiene reasons, although no one admitted to ordering the move. Id. at 901-03. The move was videotaped per policy, but when viewed the tape played for "less than a few minutes" before going blank. Id. at 901. A correctional officer told the investigator that the lieutenant in charge physically threw Laudman, who was naked and handcuffed, into the Supermax cell, even though Laudman was not resisting. When the lieutenant realized he had placed Laudman in the wrong cell, he took him out and "shoved" him into the right cell, where Laudman, still handcuffed, fell on the concrete bunk. Id. at 901. According to his mental health counselor, Laudman was not on crisis intervention, even though he was placed in Supermax without clothing, blanket, or mattress. Id. at 902. The mental health counselor stated he was never made aware of Laudman's transfer to Supermax. Id. On February 11, one week before Laudman's death, a correctional officer saw him "stooped over like he was real weak or sick." The officer noticed food trays piled up. He considered notifying a unit captain or administrator about Laudman's condition but his supervisor advised him against it. Id. at 904. Two other Supermax inmates grew concerned that week because Laudman was "ignored by officers" and three or four days had passed without any noises from Laudman's cell. The inmates warned officers that Laudman was not eating, taking his medicine, or getting out of bed. Id. at 903-04. On the morning of February 18, Officer Shepard saw Laudman lying on the floor of his cell in "feces and stuff." Shepard notified his supervisor, but was told "not to stress about it." Shepard noted that Laudman stayed in the same position all morning. Id. at 905. That afternoon two nurses, Andrews and Thompson, were called to Laudman's cell where they found him lying facedown covered in feces and vomit, but still alive. A number of 8 styrofoam trays lay about the cell containing rotting, molding food. One of the nurses described the stench from the cell as the worst thing she had ever smelled in her life. Id. at 905-07. The conditions were so foul that both nurses and officers refused to enter the cell to remove Laudman. Instead, they called for two inmate hospice workers. They had to wait, however, for count to clear, so it was a half hour before they arrived. After the inmate hospice workers removed Laudman from his cell he was transported to a nearby hospital, where he died later that day. Id. at 905-07. That same day the investigator photographed Laudman's cell. He did not see any feces, vomit, or styrofoam trays, but did notice a "distinct odor of cleaning supplies." The lieutenant in charge told him the area had not been cleaned and the cell was in the exact same condition as when Laudman had been found unresponsive. However, after viewing the investigator's photographs, both Nurse Andrews and Nurse Thompson stated the cell had been cleaned. An inmate told the investigator that he had been ordered by the lieutenant to clean the cell "before the investigators arrived." Id. at 907-08. The Department of Corrections never ordered a quality assurance review in the aftermath of Laudman's death. Seven months after Laudman's death, Plaintiffs' experts inspected Lee Supermax and described it as "filthy." Ex. 13. At the 2012 trial the Lee warden testified that he had never personally visited or inspected the cell where Laudman died. G. Conclusion In South Carolina a disproportionate number of mentally ill inmates are placed in solitary confinement. Many are actively psychotic. Conditions are atrocious, mental health services inadequate, and stays are long. Theodore Robinson was fortunate – after twelve 9 consecutive years in solitary he was transferred to a psychiatric residential program (coincidentally, just two weeks after he sued the Department of Corrections). Jerome Laudman was not so fortunate – after eleven days in Lee Supermax he died of neglect in a cold, filthy cell. For Edward Barton, the story is ongoing. Will he be released from prison into society as scheduled in 2016, after twelve consecutive years of solitary? How well has solitary confinement prepared him to handle that transition? These questions, and their implications for the constitutional, civil, and human rights of all mentally ill inmates in South Carolina prisons remain to be answered. 10