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 […]

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 […]

Holder Makes Obama Administration’s First Public Statement on Solitary Confinement

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In a weekly video message earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder made the first public statement on solitary confinement to emerge from the Obama White House (or, as far as we know, any U.S. presidential administration). A statement accompanying the 3-minute video on the Department of Justice’s website outlines the position taken by Holder–and, by implication, the DOJ […]

“Disappearing” the Disadvantaged Into Prison, and Into Solitary Confinement

Photo: Alan Pogue, Texas Center for Documentary Photography.

Guest Post by Terry Kupers Dr. Terry Kupers is one of the nation’s leading experts on the psychological effects of prison isolation. A psychiatrist with a background in psychoanalytic psychotherapy, forensics and social and community psychiatry, he is on the faculty of the Wright Institute in Berkeley. The following is a brief excerpt from a chapter […]

New York City’s New Corrections Chief, Known for Solitary Confinement Reforms, Faces Steep Challenges on Rikers Island

New York City's new Commissioner of Correction, Joseph Ponte, with NYPD chief Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill DeBlasio.

In March, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed reformer Joseph Ponte as the Commissioner of the Department of Correction. In his last post, overseeing Maine’s Department of Corrections, Ponte gained particular renown for reducing the use of solitary confinement by over 60 percent. In fact, the changes he helped bring about in Maine […]

Voices from Solitary: Analyzing Isolation, Part I

ADX Florence, Florence Colarado

This post is the next in a series of pieces Solitary Watch is publishing as part of a project calling for people held in solitary confinement to write on various proposed themes. Our second suggested theme, “Analyzing Isolation,” calls for writers to provide their analyses of solitary, discussing ways in which the practice is counterproductive.  […]

Voices from Solitary: A Day in the Life, Part IV

Kenny Zulu Whitmore holding the autobiography of Angola Three member Robert Hillary King

This post is the next in a series of pieces Solitary Watch is publishing as part of a project calling for people held in solitary confinement to write on various proposed themes. Our first suggested theme, ”A Day in the Life,” calls for writers to describe a day in his or her life in solitary confinement (read previous […]

Way Down in the Hole: Senate Hearing Challenges Solitary Confinement for Some, But Not All

Damon Thibodeaux, who spent 15 years in solitary confinement on Louisiana's death row, testifies at the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on February 25.

It didn’t take much reading between the lines to decipher the central message of last week’s Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on solitary confinement. Lawmakers and witnesses alike appeared to agree: There are people in solitary confinement in American prisons who just don’t belong there. And then, there are other people who do. In taking this […]

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 […]

As New York City Jails Amend Their Solitary Confinement Practices, Abuses on Rikers Island Continue

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In early January the Wall Street Journal reported that the New York City Department of Correction (DOC) had ceased using solitary confinement as a form of punishment for people with mental illness. The last of the Mental Health Assessment Unit for Infracted Inmates (MHAUII) units was shuttered on December 31, replaced by a two-tiered system said to […]