TUCSON – Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) today expressed condolences over news that an 18-year-old inmate at Perryville Prison in Arizona committed suicide after being held in solitary confinement despite suffering from multiple mental illnesses. Mariam Abdullah took her own life on July 19th, merely a month after aging out of the minors unit and moving to the adult facility. Mariam met with an attorney from Prison Law Office on May 24th and complained that she was not receiving the programming, unstructured out-of-cell time and mental health services required by law. In a letter dated June 7th, the Prison Law Office relayed these concerns to Arizona Assistant Attorney General Lucy Rand, but no response was ever received. Rep. Grijalva released the following statement:
“My heart breaks for young Mariam, for her family and her friends,” Rep. Grijalva said. “I extend my deepest condolences, but no amount of sympathy can give back the life that was lost here as a result of callous indifference and neglect. Our nation’s heavy-handed reliance on incarceration is welldocumented and continues to erode our ideals for a moral and justsociety. It promotes a culture within the system that ultimately allowed for this young girl to suffer in isolation while her medical needs went ignored.
“Solitary confinement is cruel and unusual punishment, period. We can do better in Arizona and around the country than to rely on such inhumane treatment – especially when the person in isolation is a child at the time. I urge the State of Arizona, and the officials whose actions and lack thereof directly impacted Mariam’s fate, to learn from this tragedy. There is a dire need for immediate evaluation of both mental and physical health standards and conditions in Arizona. Furthermore, it’s beyond time to end the use of unjustified and damaging solitary confinement, once and for all.”
Rep. Grijalva has long advocated for the end of solitary confinement. He is a co-sponsor of the Protecting Youth from Solitary Confinement Act (H.R. 2823) and the Solitary Confinement Study and Reform Act (H.R. 3399) which would establish a national commission to study the use of solitary confinement. The commission would issue a report and a set of best practices for the Department of Justice to consider in creating a separate and independent set of rules for federal prisons to follow.