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 […]

American Experts Urge British Not to Believe What They Hear About US Prison Conditions

The House of Lords is considering whether to recommend revisions to a US/UK extradition treaty that has landed British subjects in American supermax prisons.

In October 2012, five individuals were extradited from the United Kingdom to the United States to face terrorism charges. The transfer came after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that prison conditions at ADX Florence–where the suspects would likely be held if convicted–were not incompatible with Article 3 of the European Convention of […]

Seven Days in Solitary [5/25/14]

Solitary confinement news roundup: 7 Days in Solitary

The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • A Texas woman has filed a lawsuit alleging that in 2012, she was forced to give birth in solitary confinement without medical assistance, leading to her baby’s death.  […]

Seven Days in Solitary [4/20/14]

Solitary confinement news roundup: 7 Days in Solitary

The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • April 17 marked Albert Woodfox’s 42nd year in solitary confinement. Woodfox, a member of the Angola 3, remains locked up even though his sentence has been overturned three times. […]

Voices from Solitary: TV Death Row

Talha Ahsan's family in their London home.

For World Poetry Day, we feature a poem by Talha Ahsan, who is being held in pretrial solitary confinement in Northern Correctional Facility, a supermax prison in Connecticut. A British poet and translator, Ahsan was arrested at his family home in London in 2006 at the request of the United States government under the highly […]

Seven Days in Solitary [12/22/13]

Solitary confinement news roundup: 7 Days in Solitary

The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • Capital Public Radio reports on court hearings in Sacramento, CA, where U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento decided that people with mental illness on death row and in […]

Seven Days in Solitary [12/15/13]

Solitary confinement cell

The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • Alan Prendergast reports in Westword that the Colorado Department of Corrections has directed its wardens to stop sending people with mental illness to solitary confinement. (Look for more […]

Mandela in Solitary

mandela-cell-1

“I found solitary confinement the most forbidding aspect of prison life. There is no end and no beginning; there is only one’s mind, which can begin to play tricks. Was that a dream or did it really happen? One begins to question everything.” –Nelson Mandela, from his 1994 autobiography The Long Walk to Freedom Nelson […]

“This Draconian System of Punishment and Abuse”: An Interview with Former Political Prisoner Ray Luc Levasseur

Photo copyright Matthew Robbins, from the Portland Phoenix.

The following is a partial transcript of an interview with Ray Luc Levasseur, a former political prisoner who spent over fifteen years in solitary confinement, primarily at USP Marion and ADX Florence. Levasseur was raised in Maine, born to a working-class family of Quebecois origin. He became politically radicalized about race and class at a […]

Oversight in British Prisons: A Model for the U.S.?

british

Note: The following article orginally appeared in The Crime Report, and is reposted on Solitary Watch by permission. With great power, the saying goes, comes great responsibility, and prison systems are places where governments wield unparalleled power over individuals, not only depriving them of their freedom, but controlling nearly every detail of their daily lives. Yet […]