Supreme Court Justice Kennedy: Corrections System Is “Broken” and “Solitary Confinement Literally Drives Men Mad”

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Monday used long-term solitary confinement as evidence that the “idea of total incarceration just isn’t working.” Solitary “literally drives men mad,” Kennedy said, noting that more humane alternatives are employed elsewhere in the world. Kennedy’s comments were made during a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the 2016 Budget Request for […]

Solitary Not Yet Over at Rikers, But Advocates Keep Fighting

Members of the Jails Action Coalition after the New York City Board of Correction hearing on January 13. (Photo: WNV/Nick Malinowski)

This story originally appeared on Waging Nonviolence.  A group of prisoners’ rights activists didn’t stop a new isolation unit from being approved on January 13, but they did manage to push through some changes to the proposal, as well as long-overdue limitations to solitary confinement at Rikers Island, New York City’s massive island jail complex. […]

New Federal Supermax Prison Will Double Capacity for Extreme Solitary Confinement

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Amid growing controversy around the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails, and in advance of an audit of its own prison “segregation” practices, the federal government is quietly moving ahead with a plan that would significantly increase its capacity to house individuals in long-term isolation. The 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill passed by […]

For Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons, A Year of Incremental Reform

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As the year ended, The Marshall Project provided a comprehensive roundup of reforms to solitary confinement practices across the country. Eli Hager and Gerald Rich write: “In 2014 one of the most controversial practices in criminal justice, solitary confinement, faced unprecedented challenges. As a result of legislation or lawsuits, ten states adopted 14 measures aimed at […]

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 […]

Working from the Inside Out

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Guest Post by Maya Schenwar Editors’ Note: The following is an excerpt from Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better, a new book by Maya Schenwar. Locked Down, Locked Out shows how “the institution that locks up 2.3 million Americans and decimates poor communities of color is shredding the […]

After 42 Years in Solitary Confinement, Will the Angola 3’s Albert Woodfox Be a Free Man?

Albert Woodfox in 2012. Louisiana's Attorney General has called Woodfox the "most dangerous man on the planet."

In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the overturning of Albert Woodfox’s conviction. Yet he may remain in prison–and in solitary confinement–for months or even years before his four-decade ordeal is over. Woodfox has been held in solitary confinement for more than 42 years for the 1972 murder […]

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 […]