Audit of Solitary Confinement in Federal Prisons: An Inside Job Reaches Foregone Conclusions

ADX Florence in Colorado, where more than 400 men are held in extreme isolation.

A long-awaited audit of the use of solitary and other forms of isolated confinement in the federal Bureau of Prison (BOP) recommends minor reforms while affirming the overall legitimacy and efficacy of a system that holds more than 10,000 people in extreme isolation. At 242 pages in length, the Federal Bureau of Prisons: Special Housing Unit Review […]

In Canada, a Death in Prison Sparks Debate, Lawsuits Over Solitary Confinement

Protesters outside the headquarters of the Correctional Service of Canada in Ottawa in January 2013.

Ashley Smith was just 19 when she died in her solitary confinement cell at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario, in October 2007. As she had many times before, Smith tied a ligature around her neck and tightened it. For twenty long minutes, a crowd of prison guards stood watch from outside […]

New Report Documents the “Waste, Cost and Harm” of Solitary Confinement in Texas

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project  (TCRP) have released a report arguing that “solitary confinement is dangerous, expensive and makes Texas less safe.” In A Solitary Failure: The Waste, Cost and Harm of Solitary Confinement, through surveys, in-person interviews, and corroborative research conducted over an eight-month period, the […]

Voices from Solitary: Cycle of Despair

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The following essay was written by Anthony Lamar Davis, who has spent approximately six of his past eleven years in prison in solitary confinement in New York’s “Special Housing Units,” or SHUs. In 2008, New York passed a law restricting the use of solitary on people with serious mental illness. The “SHU Exclusion Law” has removed several hundred […]

Controversy Erupts at Public Meeting on New Rikers Island Isolation Units

Dakem Roberts, a survivor of solitary confinement on Rikers Island, speaks at a press conference sponsored by the Jails Action Coalition. Photo provided by JAC.

On Friday, December 19th, hundreds packed into the audience at a meeting of the New York City Board of Correction (BOC), the body that oversees New York City’s jail system. At issue was the use of solitary confinement on Rikers Island—specifically, whether to move forward with a new, highly-restrictive Enhanced Supervision Housing unit (ESHU). The […]

Corrections Officer Found Guilty in Death in a Rikers Island Solitary Cell

Ramon Echavarria with a picture of his son, Jason, who died on Rikers Island in 2012. Photo: Howard Simmons, NY Daily News

On December 17, a federal jury found a former corrections officer on New York’s Rikers Island guilty of deliberately ignoring the medical needs of a man who died in 2012 while being held in solitary confinement. Terrence Pendergrass was a captain and the supervising corrections officer on duty when Jason Echevarria, a pre-trial detainee with […]

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 […]

Voices from Solitary: The Life of an Escape Artist

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The following comes from Steven Jay Russell, who is currently serving a 144-year sentence at the all-solitary Allan B. Polunsky Unit in Texas. Notorious for masterminding four successful, non-violent escapes from Texas correctional facilities, his story is recounted in the movie I Love You Phillip Morris. Russell, who has been held in administrative segregation for nearly two decades, is the first person in U.S. history […]

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 […]

“A Girl Hung Herself Yesterday”: Deaths in Custody at California Institution for Women

Shadae "Dae Dae" Schmidt, who died in CIW's solitary confinement unit in February.

On July 30, 2014, Margarita Murugia was found hanging in her solitary confinement cell at the California Institution for Women (CIW). “She was there for her own protection, not because she did something,” wrote April Harris, a woman currently incarcerated at CIW. ” Apparently her mom was dying of cancer and they refused to let her […]