Solitary Man


I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

One of Barack Obama’s legacies — which should be lasting but probably won’t be, depending upon who replaces him as President of the United States — is that children are no longer locked up in solitary in federal prisons.

Many of the states still get their chance to brutalize boys and girls under eighteen. Twenty of them have time limits on how long a child can be kept in strict isolation from humanity, unless you count guards beating them with clubs humanity. Delaware says six hours a day is enough; California likes ninety days to teach a kid a lesson. Ten states have essentially no time limit for letting a kid rot in a hole.

But for a federal crime, kids are good to go.

Part of the reason Obama took executive action was his awareness that a sixteen-year-old Bronx boy arrested in 2010 spent nearly two full years in solitary confinement at Rikers Island, repeatedly beaten by guards (at least one of the beatings captured on video), while awaiting trial on a charge of stealing a backpack. Prosecutors were kind enough to let him go after three years when they announced there was no solid evidence to actually convict him of the heinous charge.

The boy had always protested he was innocent but, what with the effects of two years spent in a tiny room alone, one thing led to another and two years after his release he hanged himself.

There’s a website that helps people locate inmates in federal and state prisons throughout the United States. It features the photographs of a number of prominent politicians.

Maybe it’s trying to tell us something.


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