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 […]

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 […]

“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 […]

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 […]

Reports Condemn Healthcare and Solitary Confinement in Arizona State Prisons

Arizona Department of Corrections | Solitary confinement | Healthcare

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with California-based Prison Law Office and their co-counsel in federal class action lawsuit Parsons v. Ryan, has released a series of 26 reports alleging extensive problems with the Arizona Department of Corrections’ (ADC) healthcare program and its use of solitary confinement. Prison Law Office director Don Specter stated the groups requested the reports from national experts in […]

Pennsylvania Prison System Faces Lawsuit Over Suicide of Young Man with Mental Illness

Brandon Palakovic with his mother, Renee Palakovic.

On July 17, 2012, Brandon Palakovic, 23, committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell while housed in a solitary confinement unit at State Correctional Institution (SCI) Cresson, a Pennsylvania prison that has since closed its doors. Nearly two years later, on July 8, 2014, Palakovic’s parents filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PADOC). […]

Voices from Solitary: What Have You Done to My Brother?

drawing

The author of the following piece, K. Kabasha Griffin-El, is currently part of the general population at Pennsylvania’s SCI Greene. In this reflection, Griffin-El describes visiting his brother, Jerome Griffin, whom he hadn’t seen for more than two decades. Griffin-El has been incarcerated for 19 years and experienced solitary confinement firsthand, but nothing prepared him […]

New York City Officials and Advocates Push for Change to the “Culture of Brutality” on Rikers Island

City Council Member Daniel Dromm speaks, surrounded by advocates, on the step of City Hall.

Update, 8/22/14:  On Thursday, August 21, the New York City Council passed legislation introduced by Councilman Danny Dromm of Queens that would require corrections officials to release quarterly reports documenting information about inmates being held in solitary confinement at Rikers Island jail. Presenting this information to the New York City Board of Corrections would create increased transparency […]

Transgender Women in New York State Prisons Face Solitary Confinement and Sexual Assault

Michelle Smith worries about her child, Carey, a transgender woman being held in solitary confinement in a men's prison.

A SOLITARY WATCH INVESTIGATION It was Gay Pride weekend in New York City, but the event’s celebratory spirit was absent from Michelle Scott’s tidy second-floor apartment on a leafy street near Brooklyn College. Her child, Carey Smith, is a transgender woman currently locked up in solitary confinement in Upstate Correctional Facility, a men’s supermax prison […]

Voices from Solitary: Cruel and Unusual Punishment for Transgender Women

A solitary confinement cell in New York State.

Dee Dee is a transgender woman serving a sentence of 60 years to life in New York State, where she has been held in men’s prisons. After being raped twice in general population, she was placed in solitary confinement “for her own protection,” in conditions virtually identical to those used for punishment. In this letter to […]