Can International Laws and Standards Help Curb Solitary Confinement in the United States?

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The United States prides itself in being a leader in the international community. But when it comes to some human rights issues—including the use of solitary confinement—the U.S. lags far behind most other nations. Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, many new declarations, treaties, and standards have been produced […]

UN Human Rights Experts (Again) Push for Access to U.S. Prisons, Call for Solitary Confinement Reform

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez, has repeatedly asked permission to visit U.S. prisons to report on solitary confinement and other prison conditions.

The United Nations’ top experts on the human rights of people in detention are calling on the United States to open the doors of its prisons to an official visit. Juan E. Méndez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, and Seong-Phil Hong, the Chairperson of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, made the request after President […]

Voices from Solitary: Injury x Insult

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The following is a compilation of writings by Geri Erwin, who is serving 25 years to life on a second-degree murder charge. Erwin is a transgender woman involved in various facets of activism regarding sexual assault in prison, as well as just treatment of incarcerated individuals who are on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. She began her […]

UN’s “Mandela Rules” to Set New International Standards for Treatment of Prisoners, Including Limits on Solitary Confinement

The UN's new standards for the treatment of prisoners are named for Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years behind bars.

The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs) are being given several long-awaited revisions this year. Among them is a provision that solitary confinement “shall be used only in exceptional cases as a last resort for as short a time as possible and subject to independent review.” The rules also prohibit […]

Irish Court Blocks Suspect’s Extradition to U.S., Citing Risk of Solitary Confinement  

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An Irish court has blocked a U.S. extradition request because of the conditions of solitary confinement the accused could face if sent to the United States. Ireland’s High Court determined there was a real risk that Irish citizen Ali Charaf Damache would be incarcerated at the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum (ADX) in Florence, Colorado, and […]

Supreme Court Justice Kennedy Denounces “Human Toll” of Solitary Confinement and Invites Constitutional Challenge

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Guest Post by Samuel Weiss and Amy Fettig Samuel Weiss is Ford Foundation Fellow at the ACLU’s Center for Justice. Amy Fettig is Senior Staff Counsel at the ACLU’s National Prison Project. In March, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee when he received a question on prison overcrowding. He responded […]

New Report Documents Brutal Treatment of People with Mental Illness in U.S. Prisons and Jails

Capt. Shawn Welch sprays OC spray into the face of Paul Schlosser who is bound in a restraint chair after the inmate, who has an infectious disease, spit at an officer.  June 10, 2012.

“Across the United States, staff working in jails and prisons have used unnecessary, excessive, and even malicious force on prisoners with mental disabilities such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.” This is the conclusion of Callous and Cruel: Use of Force Against Inmates with Mental Disabilities in US Jails and Prisons a Human Rights Watch report […]

Voices from ADX: Living “Inside America’s Toughest Prison”

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The New York Times Magazine feature story on the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum, or ADX, in Florence, Colorado, appeared under the headline “Inside America’s Toughest Prison.” In fact, no journalist has been inside ADX for at least 15 years, but 400 men live there, some for years or decades. The story has suddenly spurred interest […]

UN Torture Investigator Barred from Visiting American Supermax Prisons

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More than two years ago, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, asked the U.S. State Department for permission to visit individuals in solitary confinement in supermax prisons and isolation units. He is still waiting for a response. Recently, our colleague Sarah Shourd interviewed Méndez for an article in the Daily Beast that describes his […]

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IMAGINE A WORLD SO DARK, A SINGLE LETTER IS YOUR ONLY CONNECTION TO HUMANITY Within an already bleak prison system, you’ve been further condemned to a six-by-nine concrete box. It’s a box built to break you down–to strip away your humanity, rewire your mind, and disabuse you of the notion that you once belonged in another world. This box […]