Google+

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

rikers demo 1

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 […]

Seven Days in Solitary [12/15/13]

Solitary confinement cell

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. • Alan Prendergast reports in Westword that the Colorado Department of Corrections has directed its wardens to stop sending people with mental illness to solitary confinement. (Look for more […]

“This Draconian System of Punishment and Abuse”: An Interview with Former Political Prisoner Ray Luc Levasseur

Photo copyright Matthew Robbins, from the Portland Phoenix.

The following is a partial transcript of an interview with Ray Luc Levasseur, a former political prisoner who spent over fifteen years in solitary confinement, primarily at USP Marion and ADX Florence. Levasseur was raised in Maine, born to a working-class family of Quebecois origin. He became politically radicalized about race and class at a […]

In States That “Reduce” Their Use of Solitary Confinement, Suffering Continues for Those Left Behind

A cell in the supermax unit at Maine State Prison. Photo by Lance Tapley.

Under pressure from activists, lawsuits, and even a few reformers within the corrections system, several states have significantly reduced the number of people they hold in solitary confinement in their prison systems. These reductions, achieved largely through “reclassifying” prisoners and returning the least troublesome ones to the general population, have rightly been celebrated by opponents […]

Prison Segregation and Racial Disparities

5692426-4

Guest Post by Margo Schlanger Margo Schlanger is Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School. The following post is based on an article that appeared in the Michigan Journal of Race & Law (see link below). The article was presented as introduction to a symposium held at the University of Michigan Law School […]