The following account is by Nicole Natschke, who was incarcerated at Illinois’s Logan Correctional Facility, where she spent significant time — including one year straight — in segregation. Logan, which is about three hours south of Chicago, was repurposed from a men’s prison to imprison women from the shuttered Dwight and Lincoln Correctional Centers. The prison, which has a rated capacity of 1,106, currently holds 1,950 people. A December 2014 report by the John Howard Association described the dismal conditions at the “overcrowded [and] underresourced” prison.

Natschke was originally scheduled to be released in December 2014 after 14 months in prison, but her segregation sentence extended her time in prison. Shortly after her arrival in segregation, a woman in the adjoining cell committed suicide. Her account, titled “Solitary Confinement Is Torture,” shows that even a few weeks or months in solitary confinement can have dire consequences on people’s physical and mental well-being. Nicole Natschke turned twenty-one while behind bars and celebrated her twenty-second birthday in solitary. She was released in late 2015.  —Victoria Law

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My name is Nicole Natschke. I am currently housed in segregation at Logan Correctional Facility in Illinois. Here at this fine institution, we are locked down 24 hours a day. We shower every four days maybe. If we act up, they sometimes refuse to shower you, although that’s against regulations. I’ve gone 12 days without a shower. Now that we have a new warden, the rules have changed. Before she started working here, for example, you would not be segregated for an unauthorized movement. Now, you must do two months in this miserable place. You would think segregation is supposed to be for violent offenders? No, now everyone comes to segregation. My cellmate, Gina, was feeling homicidal and asked for a mental health evaluation. Instead, they threw her in segregation and said she refused housing. When you refuse housing, they give you three months segregation. Gina has been in segregation for nine days and still has no sheets or blankets because they lost some of her property. She sleeps on the cold, plastic mattress. I share one of my blankets. All these non-violent “offenses” and people are doing a very long time in segregation. Gina has also never, not once, gotten into trouble in the four years she’s been incarcerated! You want to know what violent offenses carry? They carry the least amount of time in segregation. If you get into a fight, you’ll do 15 days in seg. If you assault someone, you’ll do 30 days. Everything non-violent carries more than 30 days in seg!

You can’t even ask for mental help because they’ll throw you in segregation. I am in here because I had a seizure and was handcuffed and thrown into a wall by a lieutenant. I was not supposed to be handcuffed because I just had a seizure. I flipped out, panicked and spit on him. I’ve been in segregation six months. I should’ve went home December 3, 2014, but they are keeping me here until August 3, 2015. I have to be in segregation the whole time. The past six months have been hell. I’ve seen my friend commit suicide next door to me. While the police were waiting for her body to be transferred, they made jokes about how now there’s more bed space. My friend—RIP Shortybang—shouldn’t have even been in segregation. The police ignored her cries for help. They still ignore people when people say they are suicidal or homicidal. They don’t see us as someone’s daughter, mother, or sister…They see us as a number, as bed space, as criminals. I’ve talked to many women in this prison and I haven’t met one yet who hasn’t been abused, raped, etc., in their life. I’ve heard the worst stories. I don’t know about other women, but when I’m in segregation, alone, locked in this six foot by ten foot cell for 24 hours per day, I start thinking about my life. I have a very messed-up past. Mainly when I was younger, but that wasn’t that long ago.

I will turn twenty-two in seg on April 6th. Long periods of solitary confinement are not healthy, especially for women like me who have severe PTSD and depression. I’ve attempted suicide so many times I lost count! Now what makes anyone think it’s okay to put me alone in a cell for over a year? You might think I’m being treated by a psychiatrist? Yes, but she refuses to put me on the correct medications. I see the psychiatrist through a TV once every two months, maybe, and she refuses to look at my records and see that I need certain medications. So, if I’m having severe issues just trying to survive day by day, I know others are as well. That’s why so many people are yelling constantly that they’re suicidal. This is a very depressing place.

Another serious issue, medical…I have been begging to see the doctor for six months since I got in segregation. I wrote grievances about health care in segregation. I hope and pray that things will change back here. Even something as simple as how officers treat us would change a lot. I’ll do whatever I can from the inside and hope people listen to what I have to say. Just because I made one mistake in life doesn’t mean I deserve this suffering. I am somebody’s daughter. I have a great family. I should be home. I want to stop this from happening to others.

To help us keep in touch with thousands of people in solitary confinement, some of whom have no other contact with the world outside their cells, please consider a donation to our Lifelines to Solitary project.

  • Erika Zauzig

    So glad Nicole reached out to us. I’ll write her today.

  • rosemerry

    So this is the land of the free we are all supposed to be proud of…….

  • SonniQ

    I just sealed a card to her. I understand what she is going through. Not because i have been through it myself, but through a man, the father of one of my grandsons has been going through it for over 9 years, and 4 years at juvy before that. He has done over 4 years in segregation and I know how much effort it took to help him keep his head screwed on. A couple weeks ago he was thrown back in for a third time and doesn’t know for how long. He knows was filed against him by a guard with a grudge. he wasn’t allowed to be at the hearing. The guard wasn’t there either so someone else, who absolutely nothing about anything stood in his place and a decision was made. Ironically he had just reached the place where he was allowed to make his very first phone call – ever – and we had 2 weeks of being able to talk. Now it’s gone and will have to start all over. He wants to bring charges agains them for doing this. I have yet to find a way to help him with this.

  • SonniQ

    My computer keeps dumping my reply. I will try to keep this short then. My website http://mynameisjamie.net has a new post, from the book I’m writing ‘Insideout’ in the archive section is my lastest post – nightmare –

  • SonniQ

    About being in solitary and waking each day as if from a nightmare. Now, before it dumps it again . . .

  • Jason Nissan

    Please see my FB page and sign my White House petition to reform solitary confinement! Please repost it everywhere you can.

  • Jason Nissan

    I’m a little scared to send a card. What if the guards pick on her for receiving sympathy mail?

  • SonniQ

    No Jason, it will be ok. The guards don’t need a reason to harrass. It is actually better if they know she has a lot of support behind her. They have to be careful then. The people who don’t have any support, they can do anything they want to them and they no there will be no recourse. it’s good that she has solitary watch behind her.

  • SonniQ

    This hasn’t been the land of the free in a long time, and there hasn’t been a lot happening to be proud of. Frankly it scares me, knowing my grandchildren will be left with the mess being created today.

  • Jason Nissan

    Thank you! Please sign my petition on my Facebook page to reform solitary! It’s off to such a slow start. Must have signatures to force the White House to comment on it! There’s about ten people with my name but only one will have a green We the People square next to a petition. Please repost it THANK YOU!

  • Todd Kostecki Jr.

    Love u baby sis..ul get thru it..I kno its tough I went thru it all too..everything she said in here I don’t doubt one bit Cuz its the same in both the male prisons I went to

  • invictus2

    We are all monsters by passive assent for not rising up and crushing a system that implements what are human atrocities and torture.

  • SonniQ

    Jason, I haven’t been back to Discus lately, so i didn’t read this comment. I write in so many places they sometimes get lost. Do you still have that petition going? If you do, go to my website, http://mynameisjamie.net and leave a comment on the opening page and also put a link to the petition there so that others who come there can see it. Also if you fill out the contact form it goes into a folder of readers who will find out info about the book I am writing ‘InsideOut’. You’ll read about it on that opening page. I’ll do what I can to share the link with my readers and SM

  • Jason Nissan

    I’m kind of a tech dummy so I couldn’t find your comment section. But you can find me on my new face book page, which I didn’t have when we talked last. And I’m learning how to put links in emails so here ya go. Petition is going nowhere but when it expires in a few days I will reword it and start again. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/reform-solitary-confinement-so-only-worst-worst-are-locked-not-helpless-and-nonviolent Sincerely,Jason Nissan—– Original Message —–

  • Evelina

    You can help make a difference! Please sign to urge limited use of solitary.
    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/586/993/683/urge-limited-use-of-solitary-confinement-in-us-prisons/

  • debhulbh

    My heart goes out to you. Many people care deeply for you and others who are in your situation. You are correct, no woman/man deserves to be in solitary confinement no matter the crime, many people agree with you many many people. Our prison policies have failed and their are many people working on this, trying to bring about change. You ARE part of that change. Thank you for your efforts by writing your wonderfully crafted letter. You have a gift for writing and you can use that always. Many are working to bring about change and to open up the conversation around this issue. Our failed prison policies, failed lengthy mandatory minimums not commensurate with the crime, the use of solitary confinement (studies dating back to Dickens state that solitary is torture and yet we use it). I have been posting on this subject whenever and wherever I can, for years now.
    The fact than first time nonviolent offenders get thrown into solitary for 30, 60 or 260 days (one young man I know who was a first time nonviolent offender got 260 days – cruel) that we stand by and allow this to happen is appalling, beyond comprehension. Thank you for your letter. Thank you for your efforts to bring about change. We cannot lock our fellow citizens away in solitary confinement. Of this I have no doubt.
    It is my hearts belief that we CANNOT do this any longer. This has got to end and it will. People feel the pain and the insanity, never doubt that people care, we just need more people to care and they will only care when they hear more stories. Have your cellies send their stories in too, more and more and keep doing it until you fill a book and another one and another one. Thank you. You have a good heart and NOONE can take that away from you. You are doing something good. Keep it up and someday please god someday no woman/man will have to ever endure solitary confinement in any American prison ever. This is what WE are calling for. NO SOLITARY CONFINEMENT EVER.
    Peace to you. Keep writing and reading. You will and ARE making a difference. I wish you peace all the days of your good life.