A report recently released by Amnesty International makes disturbing accusations against Arizona Maximum Security Prisons.

The report primarily discusses Special Management Units (SMUs), where many inmates are contained 22 to 24 hours a day in isolated cells with reduced sensory stimulation, little access to natural light or air, and no work, educational, or rehabilitation programs. Additionally, the lights, which are guard controlled, remain on 24 hours a day, though reportedly dimmed at night.

"In addition to the above concerns, conditions in some of the SMU housing pods are reported to have become increasingly unsanitary in recent years, with food, urine and [feces] stuck onto walls." In addition to these unsanitary conditions due to intentional behaviors, there have allegedly also been increased rates of staph infections due to a lack of cleaning materials.

The report discusses the instructive international treaties which address the humane treatment of prisoners, and specifically state that solitary confinement should be used only in exceptional circumstances, and for short periods of time.

Amnesty International points out several shortcomings that it feels do not meet the international treaty standards:

  • Windows that allow prisoners with enough natural light to work
  • Fresh air ventilations, regardless of a forced air system
  • Regular exercise, which should be at least one hour a day in open air, weather permitting
  • Hobby crafts or other activities for prisoners to occupy their time, which can include things like educational classes
  • Adequate nutrition, the report cites an accusation that prisoners in solitary confinement are fed 1 less meal a day than other prisoners

Additionally, potentially attributable to these conditions, suicide rates are quite high, "At least 43 suicides are listed as having taken place in Arizona's adult prisons in the five and a half years from October 2005 to April 2011, with several more cases to June 2011 still under investigation."

The prison system has recently had a class action lawsuit regarding many of the same issues, filed by prisoners, dismissed at the complaint level.

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