Transcript: Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Q&A with Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels on solitary confinement before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on June 19, 2012

Partial transcript of Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-South Carolina) Q&A with Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, on solitary confinement. The hearing on “Reassessing Solitary Confinement: The Human Rights, Fiscal, and Public Safety Consequences” was held before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights on June 19, 2012:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina):
…One of the roles that Congress provides in our democracy is oversight, and this is an issue I’m glad we’re talking about because I want people in you business to know that Congress care, the communities of interests who follow the humane treatment of detainees to know that we care. And also I want to let family members that may have loved on in a prison that we’re also going to care about them too.

What percentage – I know we have a special prison for very disruptive people, for people as you’ve indicated that have a pattern of violence against guards or fellow inmates. That I understand. But in a normal prison population, what percentage of disruptive behavior that leads to segregation or solitary confinement – whatever you want to use the term – is due to mental illness versus just people, you know, acting up?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
The bureau, for our population, 3% of inmates suffer from a serious mental illness. So the majority of the inmates are not within that category. And I would say that within our population, 92% of the inmates are actively and freely moving about within the general population.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina):
What’s the longest someone can be confined in isolation?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
It varies. We have individuals from different moments of time, which our overall goal and objective is always to minimize the length of time the individual is actually placed in restricted housing.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina):
How is it a deterrent to the population as a whole the fact that you may be segregated? Does the prison population as a whole – does this act as a deterrent to people acting up, that the possibility of solitary confinement?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
We believe with solitary confinement for the inmates who pose the most violence and disruption within the facility that we utilize is as a deterrent to correct the behavior.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina):
You think it works as a deterrent?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
Yes.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina):
What makes you say that?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
Within our assessment from what we’ve viewed with inmates who’ve been placed in restricted housing, we have seen where the number of assaults throughout our system at various levels have improved. And when I say improve, I would say any assault against other inmates as well as our staff. And we utilize these tools to ensure the safety and security of our facilities.

And we always work with the inmates by using verbal communication and different forms of interactions to encourage inmates to be productive and not be engaged in violence and disorder within the facility, because it makes it better for us to manage them as well as giving the opportunity…

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina):
What kind of oversight do you have in terms of the decision to segregate a person, to put them in a solitary confinement environment? What kind of checks and balances do you have there to make sure it’s just because a particular guard doesn’t like a particular prisoner? And to make sure there’s a sort of a due process way in and a due process way out?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
All of the requirements for restricted housing require a due process.

And I would start with our special housing unit process, which every facility within the bureau, with the exception of our minimum security camps, has a special housing unit. If an inmate is charged for violating the rules and they are placed in segregation, they are given notice of the charges and they have an opportunity to appeal the charges and there’s an investigative process that takes place. And if the inmate requires a staff representative and or witnesses and any information that could be presented if they believe that it helps them explain their belief that they don’t believe the charges are warranted, that process is in place. We also have procedures in place for the inmates to file an appeal, which they can at the local level and our regional offices, all the way up to our headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina):
Do you have any information to share with the committee about the mental health effects on solitary, segregated environment?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
I don’t have any written study internal to the bureau regarding the effects. But what I can tell you is that all of our staff who worked in the mental health care field are trained and they’re given specialized training to deal with individuals who suffer from serious mental health illnesses. And we go as far as to ensure that our staff throughout the agency also receive -

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina):
But there’s no study or no academic guidance about how this technique affects people that you’re aware of?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
We have not conducted an internal study within the bureau.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina):
Is that something that would be good to do?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
We would welcome any research or literature regarding concerns relative to that area.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina):
And my last question would be, at the state level, how familiar are you with state procedures and are you confident that they have similar checks and balances?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
I would say in most of the correctional institutions throughout the country at the state level that many of the practices are somewhat similar.

###

Learn More:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>