New Solitary Confinement Policies in California Bring Small Changes and Raise Big Questions

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The latest and largest of three hunger strikes in California prisons began nearly a year ago, on July 8, 2013.  The strike brought international attention to California’s liberal use of indefinite solitary confinement and resulted in legislative hearings and the introduction of bills to curb solitary in both houses of the California state legislature. (Only one […]

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 […]

Voices from Solitary: Playing “The Con Game” at Pelican Bay

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In Fall 2012, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) unveiled its “Step Down” program to evaluate prisoners with indefinite terms in its notorious Security Housing Units (SHUs) for release to general population. The program immediately drew criticism from both prisoners and their advocates, who charged that even those who have spent years in the SHU […]

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 […]

Seven Days in Solitary [5/11/14]

Solitary confinement news roundup

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. • Representative Cedric Richmond (LA-02) introduced the first-ever federal legislation addressing the use of solitary confinement, called the Solitary Confinement Study and Reform Act of 2014.  If passed, the […]

Seven Days in Solitary [4/20/14]

Solitary confinement news roundup

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. […]

Seven Days in Solitary [2/16/14]

Solitary confinement news roundup

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. • At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Robert King of the Angola 3, University of California Santa Cruz Professor Craig Haney and […]

At Hearing on Solitary Confinement in California Prisons, Advocates Challenge “Reforms”

Demonstrators gather at the State Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday. Photo by Pete Brook.

“We’re here to question the existence and effects of the SHU,” stated California Assembly Member Tom Ammiano on Tuesday, “and we don’t think this new proposed policy goes nearly far enough.” Ammiano, who chairs the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, was speaking at the second joint California Assembly-Senate hearing on the use of solitary confinement, including SHUs (Security Housing […]

New York Lawmakers Introduce Bill to End Long-Term Solitary Confinement

NY State Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry speaks at a press conference announcing the HALT Solitary Confinement Act. Photo: Bernadette Evangelista

“I’m here in a steel coffin,” Jessica Casanova’s nephew wrote to her from an isolation cell. “I’m breathing, but I’m dead.” Her nephew, she said, “has never been the same” after spending time in solitary confinement, and his experience compelled her to speak out for the thousands held in extreme isolation in New York’s prison and jails. Casanova was one of half a […]

One Month After Historic Hunger Strike, California Lawmakers Hold Hearings on Solitary Confinement

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Guest Post by Victoria Law The following report on the October 9 hearing held by the California legislature originally appeared on Truthout. The author, Victoria Law is a writer, photographer, and mother. She is the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women (PM Press 2009), the editor of the zine Tenacious: Art and Writings […]