- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 14, 2017

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Advocacy groups are calling for Nevada prison administrators to curb the use of long periods of solitary confinement for inmates and to adopt rules limiting segregation to cases involving security concerns.

An American Civil Liberties Union report released Monday also calls for improving conditions in solitary confinement and removing mentally ill inmates from segregated housing.

The study followed a top Nevada Department of Corrections administrator’s report to state lawmakers last week about mentally ill inmates being routinely housed in prison segregation units, sometimes for up to five years, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported (https://bit.ly/2ktJnv1 ).

David Tristan, deputy director of prison programs, told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee that the practices were unconstitutional and among the worst he had seen. Stunned lawmakers questioned at the time whether inmates’ civil rights had been violated.

The practices predated the arrival of a new prisons director, James Dzurenda, in April 2016. Tristan, a retired former California prisons official and consultant, arrived in Nevada in June 2016.

The department announced in December that Nevada was one of five states selected to work with the Vera Institute of Justice on ways to reduce the use of solitary confinement. The department has already incorporated some changes, prisons spokeswoman Brooke Keast said.

The ACLU was joined in the study, titled “Unlocking Solitary Confinement: Ending Extreme Isolation in Nevada State Prisons,” by the groups Solitary Watch and the Nevada Disability Advocacy & Law Center.

The advocates said prison officials failed to properly study the use of segregation as required by the 2013 state Legislature. At that time, prison administrators denied using solitary confinement in Nevada.

The report was based on accounts from 281 inmates who said they served time in solitary, an ACLU statement said.

Using cruel punishment behind bars leaves the public less safe when prisoners are released, ACLU Nevada executive Tod Story said.


Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, https://www.lvrj.com

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