To the thousands in NJ who are sitting in Solitary Confinement today, and for the tens of thousands who have sat there for months and even years in the past, I write to apologize to you for the behavior of our governor.
Not only did he veto important legislation on Monday, but he did so without an ounce of recognition or concern for your suffering.
Today, accompanying his rejection of S51 (the bill to radically reduce solitary confinement) the governor showed that he has not taken seriously any of the research showing the psychological damage that often results from prolonged isolation. He also didn’t take a look at the clear examples of abuse of power that have accompanied the use of solitary as a disciplinary tool by prison guards and others. It was as if he’d not had a new and meaningful thought about New Jersey’s reliance on this antiquated form of torture that many nations, and some states, have altogether abolished. By being totally dismissive, and chalking this bill up to a bumper-sticker press release, the governor suggested that you who have shared your horrifying experiences of solitary really don’t matter.
His response suggests that you, and advocates who have come alongside you, haven’t done your homework. He suggests, actually, that you who’ve been in the cells have never actually been in solitary, but rather in special protection. Too bad you didn’t know what that hell-hole actually was while you were in there.
Today’s response was a juvenile response from a governor who apparently hasn’t followed the multi-year process of advocates, or the many legislative hearings, or kept up with the meetings between DOC and advocates, nor followed the changing perspective of many of his now enlightened wardens.
His choice to use today’s veto as a way to bully other politicians, rather than make credible arguments that showed thoughtful reasons, was embarrassing. While he punched at the politicians the real blow was felt by those in New Jersey who should be first in his conscience—those who, because of his self-absorbed, and uninformed decision today, are left in torturous situations, in the jail within the jail.
Peace to you,
Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale
Green Party Candidate for Governor