Federal Supermax Prison “in Violatation of International Law”: Amnesty International

Interior of a cell at ADX Florence. Photo from Amnesty International © Private.

Many times, on this site and elsewhere, we have referred to supermax prisons and solitary confinement units as “America’s domestic black sites“–places where terrible suffering, even torture, take place on a daily basis, out of site of the public, the press, and in some cases the government’s own meager oversight. At the dark heart of […]

Teens in Isolation: State Advisers to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission Hold Briefing on Juvenile Solitary Confinement in New York

An isolation cell in "the Bing" on Rikers Island. Some 60 percent of the adolescents sent to Rikers have been diagnosed with mental illness. Many end up doing time in solitary.

Johnny Perez was sixteen when he was arrested for weapons possession. New York State automatically charges people ages 16 and over as adults, so the teenager was charged as an adult. Unable to afford the $100,000 bail, he was sent to Rikers Island to await trial. There, he was placed in C-74, the unit for […]

In a Maryland Jail, Teens Charged As Adults Face Isolation and Neglect

An isolation cell at the Harford County Detention Center. Photo: Aaron Cahall, The Dagger

“Trays up!” the CO yells. It’s about 5 am, and breakfast trays are here. I’ve been up since midnight, studying the workbooks that a friend sent to me. When everyone is asleep, and the TV is off, it’s the quietest time, and I can really focus. As I get my tray every morning, I ask […]

The Odyssey to Pelican Bay: Families Journey to California’s Notorious Supermax Prison

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On Memorial Day weekend, close to a hundred visitors traveled by plane, train, bus, and car to Pelican Bay State Prison. The long weekend, with the prospect of not having to rush back to work on Monday morning, meant that relatives could make the expensive, lengthy trip to the Northern-most tip of California, where a cluster […]

Holder Makes Obama Administration’s First Public Statement on Solitary Confinement

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In a weekly video message earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder made the first public statement on solitary confinement to emerge from the Obama White House (or, as far as we know, any U.S. presidential administration). A statement accompanying the 3-minute video on the Department of Justice’s website outlines the position taken by Holder–and, by implication, the DOJ […]

On the Way to Solitary, Women in Massachusetts Jail Get Strip Searched and Videotaped

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“When women are moved to the Segregation Unit for mental health or disciplinary reasons, they are strip searched. With four or more officers present, the inmate must: take off all her clothes, lift her breasts and, if large, her stomach, turn around, bend over, spread her buttocks with her hands and cough, and stand up […]

“Disappearing” the Disadvantaged Into Prison, and Into Solitary Confinement

Photo: Alan Pogue, Texas Center for Documentary Photography.

Guest Post by Terry Kupers Dr. Terry Kupers is one of the nation’s leading experts on the psychological effects of prison isolation. A psychiatrist with a background in psychoanalytic psychotherapy, forensics and social and community psychiatry, he is on the faculty of the Wright Institute in Berkeley. The following is a brief excerpt from a chapter […]

New York City’s New Corrections Chief, Known for Solitary Confinement Reforms, Faces Steep Challenges on Rikers Island

New York City's new Commissioner of Correction, Joseph Ponte, with NYPD chief Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill DeBlasio.

In March, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed reformer Joseph Ponte as the Commissioner of the Department of Correction. In his last post, overseeing Maine’s Department of Corrections, Ponte gained particular renown for reducing the use of solitary confinement by over 60 percent. In fact, the changes he helped bring about in Maine […]

Severely Disabled Man Sues New York State Prisons for Neglect, Abuse

Five Points Correctional Facility in Upstate New York.

At a time when New York State is winning praise for removing vulnerable people from solitary confinement in its prisons, the case of Mark Gizewski offers a sobering counterpoint. Although he suffers from extreme physical disabilities and lives with constant pain, Gizewski has been in and out of solitary confinement for various prison rule violations. […]

Torture on Death Row: Court Rules Against Automatic Use of Solitary Confinement for the Condemned

Cell on Texas death row.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty itself does not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.” Yet the treatment of the condemned is nonetheless subject to Eighth Amendment protections, as well as Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of due process. In the past few years, this ironic legal reality has been the subject of a renewed […]