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 […]

Arizona Opens New $50M Supermax Prison; New Report Denounces State’s Use of Solitary Confinement

Arizona State Prison Complex Lewis | Solitary Confinement

The Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) has opened a new facility with 500 maximum-security prison beds in the Rast Unit at the Arizona State Prison Complex (ASPC Lewis) in Buckeye, Arizona. (Maximum-security prisons in the state of Arizona are what is usually thought of as supermax prisons.) The opening of the new facility comes on the heels […]

UN Committee on Torture Says U.S. Must Reform Its Use of Solitary Confinement

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On November 28, the United Nations Committee Against Torture released a 15 page report reviewing the United States’ compliance with the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). The report cites the excessive use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails as a violation of CAT, and […]

UN Committee on Torture Questions U.S. Record on Solitary Confinement

Members of the UN Committee on Torture question a U.S. delegation at a hearing in Geneva last week.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, United States government officials met with representatives at the United Nations to discuss the country’s compliance with the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Every country that is a signatory to the CAT is required to submit a “Periodic Report” to the […]

On Trial for Protesting Conditions in Solitary Confinement: The Case of the Dallas 6

Defendant Derrick Stanley (holding two signs) joins supporters at a press conference outside the courthouse on Monday.  Photo: Lynne Iser.

Are people in prison allowed to stand up for their rights? Or does all organized resistance to inhumane prison conditions amount to rioting? Five men—Andre Jacobs, Carrington Keys, Anthony Locke, Duane Peters and Derrick Stanley—will stand trial in a case that may determine how Pennsylvania’s justice system answer that question. The trial was scheduled to begin […]

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 […]

Arizona Agrees to Settlement to Improve Prison Health Care, Limit Use of Solitary Confinement

(Photo: Tom Tingle / The Republic)

The Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) has agreed to a settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Prison Law Office and their co-counsel on behalf of more than 33,000 people held in state prisons. Filed in 2012, the landmark case was scheduled to go to trial earlier this […]

Pope Francis Denounces Solitary Confinement, Calls for Prison Conditions That “Respect Human Dignity”

Pope Francis washes the feet of youth in a juvenile detention center in March 2013.

In a wide-ranging speech on Thursday, Pope Francis revealed himself as a passionate criminal justice reformer. His words also suggest that he is familiar with the controversies surrounding solitary confinement and supermax prisons, and strongly opposes their use. Speaking at the Vatican to representatives of the International Association of Penal Law, the Pope said: “All Christians and people […]