Teens in Isolation: State Advisers to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission Hold Briefing on Juvenile Solitary Confinement in New York

An isolation cell in "the Bing" on Rikers Island. Some 60 percent of the adolescents sent to Rikers have been diagnosed with mental illness. Many end up doing time in solitary.

Johnny Perez was sixteen when he was arrested for weapons possession. New York State automatically charges people ages 16 and over as adults, so the teenager was charged as an adult. Unable to afford the $100,000 bail, he was sent to Rikers Island to await trial. There, he was placed in C-74, the unit for […]

“We Are Not the Worst of the Worst”: One Year Later, What’s Changed for Pelican Bay’s Hunger Strikers?

Ashker -- PBSP SHU 3front of cell from inside cell

On July 8, 2013, 30,000 prisoners refused their meals, launching the largest mass prison hunger strike in U.S. history. One year later, Todd Ashker is marking off his twenty-fourth year in Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (SHU).  “I’m still alive, kicking and strong in heart and spirit,” he wrote in a June 2014 letter. Ashker […]

Voices from Solitary: 23 and 1

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The author of the following piece of memoir, Shaka Senghor, served nearly two decades in Michigan state prisons for a murder committed when he was 19-years old. On his website, he states: “Writing about my wrongs was the first of many steps that I took to atone for taking a man’s life. Through the transformative […]

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 […]

New Campaign Highlights Post-9/11 Civil and Human Rights Abuses on American Soil

Panelists at the No Separate Justice launch at Judson Memorial Church

This past weekend, activists across the country and around the world marked the 12th anniversary of the arrival of the first prisoners to the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Detainees there have endured numerous forms of torture, including waterboarding, “stress positions,” prolonged solitary confinement, and force-feeding, as well as indefinite detention without trial, […]

“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 […]

Prison Segregation and Racial Disparities

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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 […]

One Month After Historic Hunger Strike, California Lawmakers Hold Hearings on Solitary Confinement

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Guest Post by Victoria Law The following report on the October 9 hearing held by the California legislature originally appeared on Truthout. The author, Victoria Law is a writer, photographer, and mother. She is the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women (PM Press 2009), the editor of the zine Tenacious: Art and Writings […]

After 41 Years in Solitary, a Dying Herman Wallace Has His Conviction Overturned—-and Is Freed

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Update, 10/4/15, 10 am: Herman Wallace died early this morning, a free man. He was 71 years old. In a long article we wrote in 2006 on Herman Wallace and his case, we ended with a quote from a letter he wrote to Jackie Sumell: “I’m often asked what did I come to prison for; and now […]

Members of Congress Call for Federal Investigation of Louisiana’s Use of Solitary Confinement, Treatment of the Angola 3

Herman Wallace's drawing of his sparse cell, complete with measurements; the total dimensions are 5 feet 10½ inches by 10 feet 1½ inches.

Update, July 15:  Over the weekend, Louisiana’s Hunt prison reduced Herman Wallace’s classification from maximum to medium, according to a source in his defense team. That means the terminally ill Wallace will stay in the prison hospital in a 10-bunk dorm, with access to a day room, and won’t have to wear leg irons. His phone privileges are […]