Voices from Solitary: Cycle of Despair

green haven

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 […]

Voices from Solitary: The Heaviness of Blood

A cell on the Polunsky Unit, Texas death row.

In 2002, Rob Will was convicted of the murder of a police officer and sentenced to death. The New York Times, among others, has pointed to a lack of physical evidence linking Will to the murder, and he continues to claim his innocence. Will remains on Texas death row, in the Allen B. Polunsky Unit, notorious […]

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 […]

Voices from Solitary: Survivors Speak

A typical cell at Polunsky |Solitary confinement

 The American Friends Service Committee has a long history of advocating for the rights of the incarcerated, and against injustice and abuse in U.S. prisons, jails, and detention centers. Recently, AFSC released a report called Survivors Speak: Prisoner Testimonies of Torture in United States Prisons and Jails. The document was prepared as a Shadow Report to the official U.S. […]