Each Friday, we’ll bring you updates on the latest civil liberties news from Maine and the nation.

Shining a Light on Solitary  

This week, Terri Gross interviewed reporter Benjamin Wallace-Wells about how four men managed to organize a hunger strike involving 30,000 people from inside the walls of solitary confinement. And conservative columnist David Brooks writes in the New York Times that “social pain is, if anything, more traumatic, more destabilizing and inflicts more cruel and long-lasting effects than physical pain. What we’re doing to prisoners in extreme isolation, in other words, is arguably more inhumane than flogging.”

A Better Approach to Opiate Addiction 

Dr. Steven Kassels, the medical director of community substance abuse centers throughout New England, condemns the idea that we can fight addiction with more law enforcement alone, and calls for making the life-saving drug naloxone more readily available to those most in danger of overdosing. In the Bangor Daily News, he writes that “Naloxone availability will not send the wrong message to heroin addicts that they can use the drug with impunity; heroin users, who are sons and daughters, are dying because the heroin on the street is stronger than they think or cut with other opiates.”

Progress in our Nation’s Capital

The Washington, DC city council voted 10-1 this week to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. A report by the ACLU revealed that black people are four times as likely as white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite using it at similar rates. In DC, the disparity is even greater – black people are more than eight times as likely as white people to be arrested for possession. Seema Sadanandan, program director at the DC chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union called the move a “victory for racial justice – a crucial step towards eliminating racial profiling in the enforcement of drug laws and the disproportionate punishments suffered by people of color in this city.”