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As New Prison Opens, Human Rights Group Urges Less Isolation

Attorney Stacy Scheff reads some of the prisoner testimonies aloud at Monday's press conference.
(Photo by Carrie Jung - KJZZ)
Attorney Stacy Scheff reads some of the prisoner testimonies aloud at Monday's press conference.

A faith-based human rights group has released a set of inmate testimonies on experiences in isolation. The American Friends Service Committee is urging the state to limit the use of isolation for all maximum security prisoners.

The release of the report was timed with the opening of the state’s new maximum security prison facility in Buckeye. AFSC insists additional maximum security cells are not necessary and the state should focus more on rehabilitation programs.

Alessandra Soler, the executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, agreed. She said these prisoners spend too much time in isolation.

"By policy, they’re supposed to be released for two hours a day but many times because of 'staffing' issues people will end up in their cells for 24 hours a day, without any access to any programmatic activities, without access to providers," she said.

For Soler, that much time spent alone should be considered solitary confinement, but some state officials disagree.

Doug Nick of the Arizona Department of Corrections said that definition is archaic.

"The state has single cells, of course," Nick said. "If you have a predatory inmate, a violent inmate, an inmate who is a threat to somebody else, clearly there’s a reason to have a single-cell environment for their safety, of the institution, and the safety of the other inmates. "

The state will begin moving prisoners into the new Buckeye facility in the next few days.

Carrie Jung Senior Field Correspondent, Education Desk Carrie Jung began her public radio career in Albuquerque, N.M., where she fell in love with the diverse cultural scene and unique political environment of the Southwest. Jung has been heard on KJZZ since 2013 when she served as a regular contributor to the Fronteras Desk from KUNM Albuquerque. She covered several major stories there including New Mexico's Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and Albuquerque's failed voter initiative to ban late-term abortions. Jung has also contributed stories about environmental and Native American issues to NPR's Morning Edition, PRI's The World, Al Jazeera America, WNYC's The Takeaway, and National Native News. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in marketing, both from Clemson University. When Jung isn't producing content for KJZZ she can usually be found buried beneath mounds of fabric and quilting supplies. She recently co-authored a book, "Sweet And Simple Sewing," with her mother and sister, who are fabric designers.