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Let’s Keep Oregon’s Attention on Prisoner Deaths July 18, 2007

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

Beginning last week, the Salem Statesman Journal ran three articles examining the high number of suicides in the Department of Corrections and what the DOC is doing to reduce the number of suicides in prisons (the links to the articles are at the bottom of this page). We need to thank the Statesman Journal for focusing on such an important topic and educate the public that more must be done to prevent these deaths.

The Problem is Extreme Isolation
Over the past ten years, twenty-five people have killed themselves in Oregon’s prisons, and between 2001 and 2002, Oregon’s prison suicide rate was twice the national average. The Salem Statesman Journal noted several commonalities among the deaths. One of the most significant was that a majority of the people committed suicide in the Disciplinary Segregation Unit (DSU) or the Intensive Management Unit (IMU).

DSUs and IMUs keep a person in solitary lockdown for 23 hours a day. When a person leaves his or her cell, they are handcuffed and tied with a leash. People confined in IMUs spend weeks, months or even years in solitary confinement with very little other contact with people. Even the cells are intentionally designed to magnify the isolation through sensory deprivation. The conditions in the units make people sick. They have exacerbated the illness of people diagnosed with mental health concerns and have led to symptoms in people with no previous history of mental illness. A United Nations report said the conditions in IMUs across the country were a form of torture.

While the Department of Corrections lists several steps it is taking to decrease suicides, they do not list stopping the practice of extreme isolation in IMUs and DSUs.

Please write a Letter to the Editor of the Salem Statesman Journal.

Here are some points to consider in your letter:

Here are some tips on writing letters to the editor:

Submit your letter to the editor through the Salem Statesman Journal’s website here: http://community.statesmanjournal.com/tools/sendmailforms/letters_to_the_editor.php .

The three Salem Statesman Journal articles are: Prison suicides linked to isolation, “Super max” suicides put vigilance at issue, and Prison officials consider several methods to curb suicides .

Thank you for all you do as a part of the Oregon Action Alert Network!



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