For Immediate Release
ACLU Asks UN to Intervene on Behalf of Montana Juvenile Prisoner
Teenager With Mental Illness Held in Illegal, Inhumane Conditions in Adult Facility
a United Nations Special Rapporteur to intervene on behalf of a
mentally ill prisoner, "Robert Doe," who was placed in solitary
confinement in the Montana State Prison when he was 17 and has been
subjected to abuse so traumatizing that he has twice attempted to kill
himself by biting through his wrist to puncture a vein. The request was
made in a letter sent to Manfred Nowak, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on
Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
"The conditions of Robert's
confinement are so appalling that they flout universally recognized
human rights standards, including his absolute right to be free from
torture and other inhumane forms of treatment," said Steven Watt, staff
attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program. "Montana state prison
officials are obliged to uphold these standards, which require Robert's
immediate release from solitary confinement and provision of treatment
for the remainder of his sentence that will foster his reform,
rehabilitation and eventual reintegration back into society."
Robert was sent to the Montana State
Prison in 2008 when he was 16 years old, and has spent nearly half that
time in solitary confinement. He has been Tasered, pepper-sprayed,
stripped naked in view of other inmates, deprived of human contact and
disciplined through tortuous "behavior modification plans" that deny
him proper bedding, clothing and recreation. The ACLU of Montana filed
a lawsuit in December against the state of Montana and the Montana
Department of Corrections over Robert's illegal, inhumane and degrading
treatment. Today's letter asks that the U.N. Special Rapporteur
undertake an immediate review of Robert's case, advise Montana state
prison officials to refrain from subjecting him to inhumane conditions
of confinement and treat him in a manner consistent with applicable
international human rights laws and standards.
Robert Doe has a history of
childhood physical and mental abuse, and has been diagnosed with
post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses. His
incarceration in the Montana State Prison's Restricted Administrative
Segregation Unit began in March 2009 when he was barely 17 years old.
He is only allowed outside his cell for five or six hours each week and
has been forbidden phone calls or visits with his family. Fellow
inmates were so concerned for his well-being that they reached out to
the ACLU of Montana for help on his behalf.
"Robert's conditions of confinement
are an affront not only to his internationally protected human rights
but also Montana's constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual
punishment," said ACLU of Montana Public Policy Director Niki Zupanic.
"No human being, let alone a child, should be subjected to this kind of
treatment. The state of Montana's first priority should be to provide
Robert with proper care for his mental illness, not to punish him for
The ACLU's letter to the U.N. Special Rapporteur and more on Robert Doe's case can be found at: www.aclu.org/human-rights/
The ACLU's complaint in this case can be found at: www.aclu.org/human-rights/
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.