In the Story of Jonah, an Urgent Lesson About the Dangers of Solitary Confinement

Drawing of a solitary confinement cell at California's Corcoran State Prison by Billy Sell, who died during last year's prison hunger strike.

Guest Post by Margo Schlanger The following piece originally appeared in September 2013 in Tablet, and is republished here by permission of the author.  Margo Schlanger is a professor of law at the University of Michigan and the former Department of Homeland Security Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. She helped to draft the American […]

Seven Days in Solitary [8/31/14]

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. • A federal judge approved the state of California’s plan to reduce the solitary confinement of prisoners suffering from mental illness. According to a recent story in The New York […]

Seven Days in Solitary [7/27/14]

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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. • Footage obtained by the Colorado Independent shows excessive force being used against a man who was placed in solitary after exhibiting suicidal behavior. The man was being monitored in […]

Seven Days in Solitary [7/13/14]

Solitary confinement news roundup: 7 Days in Solitary

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. • California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) has filed a lawsuit against the state’s corrections officials, demanding disclosure of information regarding solitary confinement policies under the California Public Records […]

“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 […]

New Solitary Confinement Policies in California Bring Small Changes and Raise Big Questions

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The latest and largest of three hunger strikes in California prisons began nearly a year ago, on July 8, 2013.  The strike brought international attention to California’s liberal use of indefinite solitary confinement and resulted in legislative hearings and the introduction of bills to curb solitary in both houses of the California state legislature. (Only one […]

Seven Days in Solitary [6/22/14]

Solitary confinement news roundup: 7 Days in Solitary

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. • In The Daily Beast, Solitary Watch contributor Sarah Shourd explores the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s recently proposed “obscenity regulations” – the rules that govern what mail […]

Seven Days in Solitary [6/8/14]

Solitary confinement cell

• On Monday, June 2, the New York City medical examiners office ruled the death of a man who died in a Rikers Island jail cell last fall to be a homicide. Bradley Ballard died of complications of diabetes along with the results of genital self-mutilation. According to the Associated Press: “Ballard, who family members […]

Voices from Solitary: Playing “The Con Game” at Pelican Bay

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In Fall 2012, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) unveiled its “Step Down” program to evaluate prisoners with indefinite terms in its notorious Security Housing Units (SHUs) for release to general population. The program immediately drew criticism from both prisoners and their advocates, who charged that even those who have spent years in the SHU […]

The Odyssey to Pelican Bay: Families Journey to California’s Notorious Supermax Prison

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On Memorial Day weekend, close to a hundred visitors traveled by plane, train, bus, and car to Pelican Bay State Prison. The long weekend, with the prospect of not having to rush back to work on Monday morning, meant that relatives could make the expensive, lengthy trip to the Northern-most tip of California, where a cluster […]