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Voices from Solitary: “Mind Blowing Because I’m a Kid”

hands

The following comes from Joe (pseudonym), a minor who has been incarcerated since last summer, held in solitary confinement for over six months. In his letter to Solitary Watch, he describes his life on 23-hour-a-day lockdown in a jail where he has no access to any rehabilitation or other programs, classes or church. He recounts in detail in his letter […]

DC’s Youth Face Solitary Confinement in District Jails and Federal Prisons

dc jails

Just east of Capitol Hill, on 19th Street between D and E streets, lies a complex of reddish brown concrete buildings. These are the District of Columbia’s jail facilities – the Central Detention Facility (CDF) and The Central Treatment Facility (CTF). Along with some 2,000 adults, these buildings house children under the age of 18 who have […]

The Other Death Sentence: Aging and Dying in Prison

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The title of this post is the title of a new article by James Ridgeway that appears on Mother Jones and New American Media. It begins this way: William “Lefty” Gilday had been in prison 40 years when the dementia began to set in. At 82, he was already suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease and […]

Voices from Solitary: High Tech Brutality

Robert “Saleem” Holbrook is serving life without parole in Pennsylvania for a crime committed when he was a juvenile. When he was 16, Holbrook was recruited by adults to serve as a lookout during a drug deal that escalated to robbery and then murder. Under the state’s mandatory sentencing laws, he was given LWOP–an experience he describes in an […]

“Occupy” Prison Protests in California Oppose Use of Solitary Confinement

Protestors outside the LA County Jail

Protestors outside the LA County Jail Solitary confinement was very much on the agenda during yesterday’s “Occupy for Prisoners”protests at more than a dozen sites around the country. This was particularly true in California, where recent prisoner hunger strikes have called attention to conditons in the state’s all-solitary Security Housing Units (SHUs) and Administrative Segregation […]

Solitary Confinement in Virginia’s Prisons

For anyone who missed it, this front page article in Sunday’s Washington Post gives excellent coverage to the widespread use of solitary confinement in Virginia’s state prisons. It begins with a glance at one of the nation’s most notorious supermax prisons, Red Onion, and then goes on to discuss efforts to limit the use of solitary in Virginia–which […]

What the War on Terror Owes to the War on Crime

Long before the War on Terror, there was the War on Crime. And as much as 9/11 was a watershed event, many aspects of the nation’s response to the terrorist attacks find longstanding precedent in the American criminal justice system. In his article “Exporting Harshness: How the War on Crime Helped Make the War on Terror Possible,” Georgetown […]

“God’s Own Warden”: Inside Angola Prison

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Editor’s Note: The latest issue of Mother Jones magazine includes James Ridgeway’s long article on Burl Cain, warden of the nation’s largest prison, and possibly its most notorious. The former slave plantation is known for the fact that 90 percent of its more than 5,000 prisoners will die behind bars, and also for holding two […]

Voices from Solitary: The Meaning of “Life”

Joseph Dole is currently serving a life sentence without parole at Tamms state supermax prison in Illinois. For the past eight years, he has been in solitary confinement (under conditions described by Dole himself here, and detailed in recent newspaper exposés here and here). His writing has been honored by the PEN American Center’s Prison Writing Contest and appears […]

Groups Urge Holder to Clean House at the Bureau of Prisons

A group of civil liberties and criminal justice reform groups is calling for a change in direction at the federal Bureau of Prisons, following the retirement of BOP head Harley Lappin, appointed during the Bush Administration. Under Lappin, the BOP continued to grow, adding new prisons and prisoners at a rate even higher than that of the […]