Thirty-seven civil rights, human rights, and church groups have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate “harrowing allegations of abuse and torture” of prisoners at the federal prison at Lewisburg, Pa., based on stories by NPR and The Marshall Project, reports NPR. Groups signing the letter include the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, National Alliance on Mental Illness and Southern Poverty Law Center. “Reported conditions at … Lewisburg call for swift intervention and accountability,” said the Rev. Laura Markle Downton, of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, a drafter of the letter to DOJ.
The letter writers said the stories showed “a facility in crisis that requires greater oversight, transparency and accountability to ensure humane and lawful conditions of confinement.” The news stories found violence between prisoners is six times more likely at Lewisburg, compared with all federal prisons. That violence is more likely because dangerous men are put men together in one solitary confinement cell — a practice called double celling — for 23 to 24 hours a day, plus a lack of mental health care and the frequent use of restraints for prisoners who refuse to live with a specific cellmate.