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New York Fails to Provide Mental Health Services to Inmates in Solitary

New York Fails to Provide Mental Health Services to Inmates in Solitary
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When Amir Hall entered New York state prison for a parole violation in November 2009, he came with a long list of psychological problems. Hall arrived at the prison from a state psychiatric hospital, after he had tried to suffocate himself. Hospital staff diagnosed Hall with serious depression.

In Mid-State prison, Hall was in and out of solitary confinement for fighting with other inmates and other rule violations. After throwing Kool-Aid at an officer, he was sentenced to seven months in solitary at Great Meadow Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in upstate New York.

Hall did not want to be moved. When his mother and grandmother visited him that spring, Hall warned them: If he didn’t get out of prison soon, he would not be coming home.

Amir Hall (Photo courtesy of Tiffany Adams)

Amir Hall. Photo: Tiffany Adams

A grainy tape of Hall’s transfer on June 18, 2010, shows prison guards spraying chemicals into his cell, forcing him to come out. He barely says a word as he is made to strip, shower, bend over and cough. His head drops, his shoulders slump. His face is blank and expressionless. He stares at his hands, except for a few furtive glances at the silent guards wearing gas masks and riot gear.

“There was somebody who looked defeated, like the life was beat out of him,” said his sister Shaleah Hall. “I don’t know who that person was. The person in that video was not my brother.”

Multiple studies have shown that isolation can damage inmates’ minds, particularly those already struggling with mental illness. In recent years, New York state has led the way in implementing policies to protect troubled inmates from the trauma of solitary confinement.

2007 federal court order required New York to provide inmates with “serious” mental illness more treatment while in solitary. And a follow-up law enacted in 2011 all but bans such inmates from being put there altogether.

But something odd has happened: Since protections were first added, the number of inmates diagnosed with severe mental illness has dropped. The number of inmates diagnosed with “serious” mental illness is down 33 percent since 2007, compared to a 13 percent decrease in the state’s prison population.

A larger portion of inmates flagged for mental issues are now being given more modest diagnoses, such as adjustment disorders or minor mood disorders.

Shaleah Hall, Amir's sister, has  'In Loving Memory of Amir' tattooed in a curling ribbon on her right bicep. (Photo courtesy of Shaleah Hall)

Shaleah Hall, Amir's sister, has 'In Loving Memory of Amir' tattooed in a curling ribbon on her right bicep. Photo: Shaleah Hall

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7:35PM PDT on Aug 25, 2013


1:29PM PDT on Aug 23, 2013

Being in prison would be depressing after awhile.

3:17PM PDT on Aug 22, 2013

Human beings are by nature social. To place anyone, whether mentally ill or healthy, is to invite disaster. Sadly, our prisons are more intested in warehousing prisoners for profit than in rehabilitating them or addressing their mental health issues. Solitary should be banned.

1:24PM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

If they won't do that why don't they just inject them and let them die in peace

5:04AM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

Sadly noted! Thanks for posting.

4:26AM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

Very sadly noted

4:24AM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

Thanks for sharing

10:10PM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

All a paper drill- like DOD changing PTSD diagnosis to something else.

9:00PM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

it's hard to tell the difference between prison and a mental hospital!'s a warehouse situation, we are breeding more inmates all the time......the pressure cooker of industrial disease........

8:33PM PDT on Aug 20, 2013


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David - was there something else of relevance in your post? I must have missed it. LOL

Al H., at least you don't deny the rest of what I wrote.

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