Voices from Solitary: The Safari from Pelikkkan Bay

A cell in the Pelican Bay SHU, where the writer lived for two decades.

Kijana Tashiri Askari has been in solitary confinement since 1994 after he was “validated” as a member of the Black Guerrilla Family. Until recently in California’s prisons, people who were validated as gang members were sentenced to indeterminate stays in the Security Housing Unit (SHU), where they spent nearly 24 hours in windowless cells. In […]

Voices from Solitary: “I Am Somebody’s Daughter”

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The following account is by Nicole Natschke, who is currently held in the segregation unit at Illinois’s Logan Correctional Facility, about three hours south of Chicago. Logan 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 […]

Voices from Solitary: On Hunger Strike Against Brutal Treatment in Florida Prisons

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Jacob Barrett is an Oregon state prisoner who was transferred to Florida and has been held for years in “Close Management,” or solitary confinement, most recently at Florida State Prison in Raiford. On February 1, Barrett began a hunger strike not only against the conditions he himself has endured, but also against the rampant abuses […]

Voices from Solitary: My Tranz Brothers and Sisters Are There, Boxed

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Lexy is a 36-year-old transgender woman who was recently released from New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) custody after about two and a half years inside. She spent three months in solitary confinement in “the Box” — first at Watertown, then at Midstate — after a can lid was found under her bed. She says that the […]

Voices from Solitary: Cycle of Despair

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The following essay was written by Anthony Lamar Davis, who has spent approximately six of his past eleven years in prison in solitary confinement in New York’s “Special Housing Units,” or SHUs. In 2008, New York passed a law restricting the use of solitary on people with serious mental illness. The “SHU Exclusion Law” has removed several hundred […]

Voices from Solitary: A Sentence Worse Than Death

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William Blake has been in solitary confinement for 27 years. When he was 23 years old and in county court on a drug charge, Blake murdered one deputy and wounded another in a failed escape attempt. He was sentenced to 77 years to life.  This essay earned Blake an Honorable Mention in the Yale Law Journal’s Prison […]

Voices from Solitary: The Life of an Escape Artist

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The following comes from Steven Jay Russell, who is currently serving a 144-year sentence at the all-solitary Allan B. Polunsky Unit in Texas. Notorious for masterminding four successful, non-violent escapes from Texas correctional facilities, his story is recounted in the movie I Love You Phillip Morris. Russell, who has been held in administrative segregation for nearly two decades, is the first person in U.S. history […]

Voices from Solitary: Is It Normal to Think That?

A SHU cell at Southport Correctional Facility | Voices from Solitary

This following piece was written by Scott Van Bergen, who is currently being held at Southport Correctional Facility, a supermax prison in Pine City, New York, where about 700 men are held in isolation in the “Special Housing Units,” or SHUs. It was written in response to an article in a recent Solitary Watch newsletter on efforts by advocates to bring […]

Voices from Solitary: Is “Torture” Too Strong of a Word?

The administrative segregation unit at Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP) | Solitary Confinement

The following comes Ryan Pettigrew, who spent most of his eight years at the supermax Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP) in solitary confiinement. Diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, Pettigrew, like an estimated 57 percent of prisoners confined in isolation in Colorado, suffers from mental illness. Recalling his response when asked by his parole officer if his time in […]

Voices from Solitary: The Heaviness of Blood

A cell on the Polunsky Unit, Texas death row.

In 2002, Rob Will was convicted of the murder of a police officer and sentenced to death. The New York Times, among others, has pointed to a lack of physical evidence linking Will to the murder, and he continues to claim his innocence. Will remains on Texas death row, in the Allen B. Polunsky Unit, notorious […]