New Report Finds More Than 122,000 People In Solitary Confinement In The United States

Figures Exceed Previous Counts Because They Include All People in Solitary in Prisons and Jails for 22 or More Hours a Day, and Are Based on the Most Reliable Available Sources Washington, DC — The watchdog group Solitary Watch and the advocacy coalition Unlock the Box today released a groundbreaking joint report showing that at least 122,840 people are locked daily in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails for 22 or more hours a day. Calculating Torture ( LINK ) is the first report to combine the use of solitary in local and federal jails in addition to state and federal prisons. It is based on analysis of data recently released by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) as well as by state prison systems that did not report to BJS, and data from a survey of local jails conducted by the Vera Institute of Justice.

USA | Attorney General Merrick Garland suspends federal executions and orders review of Trump-era rules

Attorney General Merrick Garland
(CNN) -- Attorney General Merrick Garland has ordered a temporarily halt to federal executions as Justice Department senior officials review the policies and procedures for the controversial punishment.

"Serious concerns have been raised about the continued use of the death penalty across the country, including arbitrariness in its application, disparate impact on people of color, and the troubling number of exonerations in capital and other serious cases. Those weighty concerns deserve careful study and evaluation by lawmakers," Garland said in a memo issued on Thursday.

There has not been a scheduled federal execution since President Joe Biden was sworn in to office.

"As the President has made clear, he has significant concerns about the death penalty and how it is implemented, and he believes the Department of Justice should return to its prior practice of not carrying out executions," White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.

There are 46 men currently on federal death row, and while there are more than 2,500 men and women on state death row, this directive from Garland does not halt those proceedings.

Blood bath

"The Department must take care to scrupulously maintain our commitment to fairness and humane treatment in the administration of existing federal laws governing capital sentences," Garland wrote in the memo, citing changes the Justice Department had made under former Attorney General William Barr to policies and procedures around the federal death penalty in 2019.

Barr revived the federal death penalty after a 17-year hiatus. Despite calls from civil rights leaders, celebrities, lawmakers and anti-death-penalty advocates to halt the executions, 12 men and one woman were executed during the last seven months of former President Donald Trump's term.

"If the DOJ review is as narrow as the memorandum suggests—i.e., it addresses only the things the Trump administration did to expedite executions and expand the methods available to kill federal prisoners—it barely even scratches the surface of death penalty reform. Simply put, if the administration doesn't repeal or commute, it isn't taking steps to end the federal deathpenalty. It may be making reforms, but it isn't fulfilling the Biden campaign pledge." — Robert Dunham, Executive Director, Death Penalty Information Center.

"To put that in historical context, the Federal Government will have executed more than three times as many people in the last six months than it had in the previous six decades," Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissenting opinion on January 15 before the last scheduled execution of Dustin John Higgs.

Garland's directive will include a review of changes to regulations made in 2020 under Barr that expanded the permissible methods of execution beyond lethal injection, to include the use of firing squads.

During Garland's confirmation hearing in February, he said the use of the death penalty gave him "pause" because of the number of wrongful conviction cases that have occurred across the country.

"Not enough"

"A moratorium on federal executions is one step in the right direction, but it is not enough. We know the federal death penalty system is marred by racial bias, arbitrariness, over-reaching, and grievous mistakes by defense lawyers and prosecutors that make it broken beyond repair," Ruth Friedman, director of the Federal Capital Habeas Project, said in a statement reacting to Garland's move to pause federal executions. 

"President Biden, with the support of the Department of Justice, can and should commute all federal death sentences to address these problems. Otherwise, this moratorium will just leave these intractable issues unremedied and pave the way for another unconscionable bloodbath like we saw last year."

Source: CNN, Christina Carrega, July 2, 2021

Merrick Garland pauses federal executions a year after his predecessor resumed them.

W. Barr and D. Trump
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on Thursday imposed a moratorium on federal executions pending a review of the Justice Department’s policies and procedures, reversing the Trump administration’s decision to resume executions of federal death row inmates last year after a nearly two-decade hiatus.

“The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely,” Mr. Garland said in a memo to Justice Department leaders. “That obligation has special force in capital cases.”

Mr. Garland said in his memo that the deputy attorney general, Lisa O. Monaco, would supervise a review of Justice Department policies related to federal executions that were implemented by former Attorney General William P. Barr. He asked that several of the department’s divisions, including the Bureau of Prisons, the criminal division and the civil rights division, participate, along with other federal agencies and outside advocacy groups.

After 17 years without executions, the Justice Department under Mr. Barr began to execute federal death row inmates last summer. He argued that the Justice Department under both parties had sought the death penalty and that the government owed “the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”

The Trump administration ultimately executed 13 people, more than three times the number of people put to death by the federal government in the previous six decades.

"While a moratorium on federal executions has symbolic value, we’ve seen the danger of half-measures that do not fully address the fundamental brokenness of our death penalty system. More is required." — Sister Helen Prejean, anti-death penalty activist, spiritual adviser to men and women on death row. Author of Dead Man Walking, The Death of Innocents, and River of Fire.

Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said President Biden approved of Mr. Garland’s decision.

“As the president has made clear, he has significant concerns about the death penalty and how it is implemented, and he believes the Department of Justice should return to its prior practice of not carrying out executions,” Mr. Bates said.

As a candidate, Mr. Biden said that he would work to abolish federal executions and incentivize states to follow suit.

The Supreme Court also said in March that it would review an appeals court’s decision to overturn the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was sentenced to death for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

Should the Biden administration withdraw its support for the death penalty against Mr. Tsarnaev, the Supreme Court case would become moot.

Mr. Garland has asked the department to review policies implemented in the last two years that paved the way to restart federal executions.

Sourcenytimes.com, Katie Benner, July 1, 2021

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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