DENVER, CO--(Marketwired - September 18, 2015) - The
Federal Bureau of Prisons has yet to announce or release any public
details around the September 7, 2015 (Labor Day) death of Michael A.
Andersen, 44. Records on the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Inmate Locator
simply note Andersen's status as ‘Deceased: 09/07/2015'.
familiar with the matter and speaking on condition of anonymity stated
that Inmate Andersen had been housed in the medium security FCI in
solitary confinement, known by inmate's as ‘the hole', after an alleged
disciplinary infraction at the adjacent minimum security satellite camp
for chewing tobacco. Visits to the FCI were delayed Labor Day morning
and cars lined the street just beyond the entry gate after Andersen's
body was discovered. The guard who found the body radioed, "We have a
‘hanger,'" the source concluded.
"We were shocked to find out a
non-violent, minimum security camper was sent to the solitary
confinement and housed in ‘the hole' alone. If someone was with him,
maybe he would be alive today," ponders an executive from A Just Cause
(AJC). This finding stands in direct conflict with the August 4th
statements during the Senate Subcommittee testimony made by Director
Samuels where he stated, 'We (BOP) do not practice solitary
confinement...nor have we ever, had the practice of placing individuals
in a cell alone.'
"If Samuels' testimony was true, how does the
BOP explain Michael Andersen's death? Why was a non-violent camper
placed in a cell alone? Could he have been given a ‘shot,' the prison
equivalent of a disciplinary write up, since he was not a hard core
criminal? How does chewing tobacco warrant solitary confinement? There
are so many unanswered questions; unfortunately, Andersen's solitude
proved too much for him and also made it impossible for anyone to
intervene or call for help until it was too late," stresses the AJC
Reliable sources note that Andersen's family had
recently moved from Wyoming to Canon City, Colorado to be closer to the
institution for visits. "His death is a tragic reminder of the toll
solitary confinement can take on the human spirit. It also reinforces
that the Federal Prison System requires immediate transparency,
accountability and reform," contends the AJC Executive.
to the National Journal, "At a hearing of the Senate Committee on
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Tuesday (August 4, 2015),
activists clashed with prison administrators over the level of
mistreatment in the federal prison system, especially when it came to
defining 'solitary confinement.'" (Emma Roller, National Journal, The
Problem with Defining 'Solitary Confinement,' http://www.nationaljournal.com/congress/the-problem-with-defining-s...
The National Journal went on to report, "But in a confusing exchange
with Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey at the hearing,
Samuels denied that the Federal Bureau of Prisons even practices
According to The Hill, Director Samuels
claimed, "We do not practice solitary confinement...Our practice has
always been to ensure that when individuals are placed in restrictive
housing, we put them in a cell with another individual," [Samuels]
continued, adding that "staff members periodically make rounds to check
in on them." (http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/250247-dems-grill-feder...
National Journal report states that the exchange between Booker and
Samuels continued with, "'I'm sorry, I just really need to be clear on
that,' Booker cut in, sounding baffled. ‘Your testimony to me right now
is that the BOP does not practice solitary confinement of individuals
singularly in a confined area?' 'You're correct,' Samuels said. 'We only
place an individual in a cell alone if we have good evidence to believe
that the individual could cause harm to another individual and/or if we
have our medical or mental health staff given an evaluation that it
would be a benefit to the individual to be placed in a cell alone. We do
not under any circumstances, nor have we ever, had a practice of
placing individuals in a cell alone.'"
Michael Andersen was a
non-violent offender housed at the minimum security satellite camp. He
met none of the criteria outlined by Director Samuels for single
occupancy. "Director Samuels did not tell the truth. He and the BOP
Staff is further complicit and liable in the death of Inmate Andersen
because the ‘periodic rounds' to check on him were clearly insufficient.
Director Samuels is simply misleading members of Congress and the
public when he states the Federal BOP does not practice solitary
confinement," the AJC Executive emphasizes. "I contend that solitary
confinement is as real today as it ever was and Congress needs to
independently investigate the hidden things that are happening in our
prison system with unannounced inspections to uncover the truth,"
declares the AJC Executive.BOP Program Statement 5270.10
Special Housing Unit, section 2, § 541.21 Special Housing Units,
states, "Special Housing Units (SHUs) are housing units in Bureau
institutions where inmates are securely separated from the general
inmate population, and may be housed either alone or with other inmates
"The very policy statements that govern the BOP standard operating
procedures conflict with Director Samuels' account of never placing
anyone in a cell alone and flies in the face of Michael Andersen's
death," the AJC Executive exclaims.
"I contend that the BOP,
namely Director Samuels, must stop mincing words. The BOP simply adopted
the term ‘SHU' or ‘Special Housing Unit' as a nicer and more
politically correct phrasing for the very unpleasant and horrid place
called, solitary confinement, but the simple truth is that ‘the hole'
has not changed, nor has it ever been done away with. The Special
Housing Unit implies a favorable place that affords advantageous of some
sort. It is special, exclusive, elite or privileged place for a select
few who are chosen with a plush couch to kick back on, a TV, and some
creature comforts; but, the reality is that ‘the hole' is a very dark
place. It is a place used far too often with detrimental effects to a
person's psychological and physical well-being. It is a place of
hopelessness furnished with a bed, sink and toilet, and rarely much
else," bemoans the AJC Executive.
It is a known fact that suicide
is a major concern with solitary confinement. "A study of the federal
prison system found that 63 percent of suicides occurred among inmates
locked in "special housing status," such as solitary or in psychiatric
seclusion cells. As one inmate cited in the study explained:
Hole and Segregation cells are depressing enough to drive many men to
take their lives in order to escape. For some it would appear to be the
only way out. After years of living in the cramped confines of a
segregation cell with no hope of getting out, it is easy to see why a
man would prefer death.'" (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/criminal-justice/locked-up-...
Just Cause vows to continue investigating the untimely death of Michael
Andersen and expose inhumane conditions and solitary confinement
practices in the prison system in spite of disingenuous accounts by
Director Samuels and other BOP officials who would rather see such news
go away," affirms the AJC Executive.
A Just Cause made several calls to the Florence FCI requesting comment; however, no calls have been returned.
For more information about the story of the IRP6 or for copies of the legal filings go to http://www.freetheirp6.org
Related press releases: http://www.a-justcause.com/#!2015-press-releases/cl69