Solitary Confinement in the US
At the time of writing, Dzhokhar A Tsarnaev has been held in solitary confinement for 182 days whilst awaiting a decision from the US attorney general Eric Holder, as to if, upon any conviction, he will face death by lethal injection in the state of Massachusetts.
The state itself has not held an execution for over 70 years.
Despite being held in custody since April, the US attorney general has recently determined that it is necessary for Tsarnaev to face even more restrictions whilst in custody and has invoked 'Special Administrative Measures' (or SAMS) to further limit Tsarnaev's contact with the outside world.
SAMs: What is it?
A Special Administrative Measure (SAMs) is a process under law whereby the US attorney general may direct the Bureau of Prisons to use "special administrative measures" regarding housing of and correspondence and visitors to specific inmates. It includes prisoners awaiting or being tried, as well as those convicted, when it is alleged there is a:
Since 2009, only 44 out of 205,000 federal inmates were subject to SAMs, 29 incarcerated on terrorism-related charges, 11 on violent crime-related charges and four on espionage charges.
Tsarnaev's legal team have stated that the government is 'deliberately trying to limit attorney-client interaction' and have recently filed a request for the measures to be lifted.
Court documents note that the measures have created 'obstacles' that have had a "dramatic chilling effect on the defense team's ability to prepare a thorough and vigorous defense" and have further argued that the measures"violate the First, Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The court therefore should declare that the SAMs are unlawful and order that they be vacated."
Considering Tsarnaev is facing a capital offence access to lawyers is paramount - a point that cannot be emphasized enough.
Solitary Confinement and it's Effects
Physical symptoms commonly manifest themselves as: headaches, apathy, chronic insomnia, impending nervous breakdown, perspiring hands, heart palpitations, loss of appetite, trembling hands and nightmares.
Solitary confinement is considered to be a form of psychological torture when the period of confinement is longer than a few weeks or is continued indefinitely.
The International Red Cross has expressed concern of ‘significant problems’ with U.S. confinement techniques, and U.S. prison policies have faced mounting legal challenges. It further notes that America's detention system falls far below the basic minimum standards for treatment of prisoners in solitary confinement under international law.
Solitary confinement and prolonged segregation in U.S prisons fail to abide by either the international standards for prison management or internationally established protections for prisoner rights.
International law and its various international treaties and covenants-the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among others, contain the prohibition of torture.
International courts interpreting these documents have determined four elements of torture: severity, intent, objective, and officiality.
... and denied access to proper legal representation in a case that carries the death sentence.
Miller, Nan D (1995) 'International protection of the rights of prisoners: Is solitary confinement in the United States a violation of international standards.' Cal. W. Int'l LJ 26 139.
Haney, Craig (2003) 'Mental health issues in long-term solitary and "supermax" confinement'. Crime and Delinquency 49 (1): 124–156
Hresko, Tracy (2006) "In the cellars of the hollow men: Use of solitary confinement in US prisons and its implications under international laws against torture.' Pace Int'l L. Rev. 18 1.
Lobel, Jules (2008) 'Prolonged solitary confinement and the Constitution.' University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 11.115 2009-19.
Vasiliades, Elizabeth (2005). "Solitary Confinement and International Human Rights: Why the US Prison System Fails Global Standards.". Am. U. Int'l L. Rev 21: 71–101.
Statement by the Attorney General (06/09/2009) 'Prosecuting and Detaining Terror Suspects in the U.S. Criminal Justice System' : US Department of Justice Directive
Browne, Angela; Cambier, Alissa; Agha, Suzanne (October 2011). 'Prisons Within Prisons: The Use of Segregation in the United States'. Federal Sentencing Reporter (University of California Press) 24 (1): 46–49.
Solitary Watch (06/18/2011) 'Psyhcological effects of Solitary Confinement' : Report
Filed court document (10/02/2013) 'Motion to Vacate Special Administrative Measures Imposed on Defendant and Defense Counsel' State V Tsarnaev