On July 12, 2019, KSQD radio program “Non-violent Voices” interviewed Willow Katz, family member of persons formerly held in solitary confinement, grassroots activist, and member of California Families Against Solitary Confinement, End Solitary Santa Cruz County, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, and Social Workers Against Solitary Confinement.
The interview covered many aspects of solitary confinement: conditions, duration, and numbers of people in solitary; reasons people are in solitary; harmful psychological and physical effects; international human rights law; the history of solitary confinement in the U.S. since the 1950’s; and solitary as intentional state-sanctioned torture.
Willow presented history of the California Prisoner Human Rights Movement (PHRM) to end long-term solitary confinement, including the California Prisoner Hunger Strikes of 2011 and 2013, the Agreement to End Hostilities across ethnic and geographic lines, and the history and status of the Ashker V. California Governor class action lawsuit. In June 2019, the Center for Constitutional Rights asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold two district court rulings that found the California Department of Corrections in violation of the terms of the settlement.
She then touched on the movement to end solitary confinement outside California, including the Colorado Department of Corrections regulatory limit of no more than 15 days, in line with the UN Mandela Rules; the June 2019 New Jersey passage of the “Isolated Confinement Restriction Act,” which limits duration and prohibits solitary confinement of vulnerable populations; the ongoing campaign to pass the Humane Alternatives to Long-term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act in NY State; and June 2019 judiciary and legislative limits in Canada.
Willow offered resources including YouTube videos of co-founder of California Families Against Solitary Confinement Dolores Canales, a readers’ theater, and the event Cruel and Unusual-the Story of the Angola 3, at the University of California Santa Cruz; the play Solitary Man: A Visit to Pelican Bay State Prison; and Albert Woodfox’s memoir Solitary: My Story of Transformation and Hope.
She gave the names of organizations and campaigns for more information on solitary confinement: the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), American Friends Service Committee’s Prison Watch Program, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Unlock the Box Campaign, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Solitary Watch, and Social Workers Against Solitary Confinement. The interview ended with a call to free political prisoners held in the U.S. and an update on Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Solitary Watch posted the interview with Willow Katz on “7 Days in Solitary” on 7/22/19. They wrote:
“The segment discusses progress in the movement to end solitary confinement, since the 2011 California hunger strikes. Katz spoke about people being isolated based on “confidential information” about gang associations, obtained through the unreliable process of “debriefing” other incarcerated people. Individuals ended up isolated for having “ethnic” or political artwork, books, or tattoos, and Latinos were over-represented in solitary in California. While about 1,500 people were released from solitary under the Ashker v. Governor of California settlement, Katz says that many people continue to be held in solitary across the state and confidential information is still used as a reason to isolate people.”Listen to the full interview with Willow Katz on “Nonviolent Voices,” here (“NonviolentVoices_KSQD_July12,2019.mp3,” 1:02:02).