Transcript: Sen. Mazie Hirono’s Q&A w/ BOP Director Charles Samuels on solitary confinement

Partial transcript of the Q&A with Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Charles E. Samuels, Jr., Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, on solitary confinement. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights hearing on “Reassessing Solitary Confinement II: The Human Rights, Fiscal, and Public Safety Consequences” was held on Feb. 25, 2014:

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii):
…Director Samuels, thank you for your service and all that you’re doing to address what is really a troubling situation.

We do have someone on the second panel who will testify or talk about women being confined in solitary for reporting abuse, including sexual abuse, by Bureau of Prison staff.

I have a series of questions regarding this situation.

My first question is are you aware of this happening in the system, rare as it may be, we hope?

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

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii):
Then what do you have in place to prevent this kind of abuse from happening?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
Well, what we have in place is our staff being active in ensuring that rounds are being made. We have also addressed concerns with ensuring that the inmates are able to reach out and to let us know and being comfortable with that. We have a zero tolerance.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii):
You have a zero tolerance. So does that mean that the inmates that this is happening to feel free to come forward and report – who would they report this to? Certainly, it shouldn’t be the person that has power over them and who is actually the abuser – alleged abuser.

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
They’re able to report any allegations to staff and we also have a hotline number that the inmates are given and they can also report it in that manner.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii):
And in terms of getting this information out to your inmates, do you do this in a written form? How do your inmates know? Regardless of whether they’re in solitary or in the general population, that if they are faced with this kind of abuse that they know what to do, where to go?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
It’s provided to the inmate population verbally during discussions as well as in writing.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii):
Mr. Chairman, I think it would be good if he could provide us with a sample, in fact, the directive regarding what they tell the inmates with regard to this kind of situation.

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
We can provide that for the record.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii):
So, in terms of the enforcement of this policy or this directive, how do you go about enforcing it, making sure that this is being followed by your staff?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
Well, a number of things that we do. I mean, at the local level, obviously it’s something that the leadership to include management staff are focused on ensuring that we’re doing quality control reviews. We utilize our national office when we go out and we conduct audits of our facilities. We look at the operating practices and procedures to ensure that we are following the expectations of our policies.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii):
How long have these policies been in place at the BOP?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
These policies have been in place for decades. We’ve always had a zero tolerance for any type of activity and given our staff the values to carry it out.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii):
And so when this does happen, what happens to the alleged abuser or the violator?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
For the individuals who do this, we quickly take all allegations seriously. And those individuals are removed from general population as well as the individuals who have been victimized to ensure that we’re looking at the safety and security issues on both sides. And we ensure that the investigation relative to the allegation that we’re doing it in a timely manner, and holding those individuals accountable. Because as I mentioned, Senator, we do not support nor do we want anyone victimizing others to not being held accountable for their actions.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii):
And is this kind of behavior considered a crime for which the perpetrator can be prosecuted?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
Yes. And if the investigation leads to the individual being charged, which we refer all of these issues to the FBI, then they move in and they do their investigation. And ultimately, it’s determined whether or not a crime has been committed, and we believe in ensuring that those individuals are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii):
Do you have the numbers on how many individuals have been prosecuted or disciplined in some way? Well, then let’s talk about discipline and then prosecution.

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
I don’t have that information with me currently, but I can provide that for the record.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii):
You have that data?

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

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii):
Thank you. Have there been any studies on the effects of solitary confinement on recidivism and their re-entry?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
There have been no studies, and as a result of the hearing that was conducted in 2012 when that question was presented to me and we had not participated in any type of study, we agreed to undergo the analysis that is taking place right now with CNA. And hopefully from that review, we will have some insight. But Senator, I would have to add when you’re looking at recidivism that will require a long period of time to assess when you’re looking at the number of individuals who have since been released and the impact on recidivism. And also a resource issue…that if we undertake something like that, that there will be substantial costs. But currently, we do not have anything like that in place other what we’re being looked at.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii):
I recognize that it’s not that easy to determine cause and effect in these situations.

Are you aware of any studies that show differences in the effects of solitary confinement on men and women?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
No.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii):
Is this aspect going to be addressed in some way in this study that you’re referring to?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
The comprehensive study that we’re undergoing now, that’s not part of the assessment. But I agree with you it’s something that we should continue to look at. But also, as I’ve stated, when you look at the gender issues for restrictive housing, the number for us is very, very, very low for the female population. And they are not as likely as the male population to be engaged in behavior that requires them to be placed in restrictive housing for long periods of time.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii):
If I may, you have 198 women in restrictive housing. How many of them are in the ADX facility?

Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
We do not house any females at the ADX nor do we require, for the record, to have that type of housing for female inmates. Only for males.

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