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Voices from Solitary: Double Celling

five shaquille

The following piece was jointly written by Five Mualimm-ak and Shaquille Mualimm-ak, who are father and son. Five Mualimm-ak is now a prison reform activist and director of the Incarcerated Nation Campaign. While incarcerated in New York State prisons, he spent five years in solitary confinement for nonviolent disciplinary infractions, and has written previously about […]

UN Investigator Says Long-Term Solitary Confinement in New York State Prisons Is Torture

A New York State SHU cell.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez has concluded that the state of New York violated the rights of three incarcerated men “to be free from torture” by locking them up them in long-term solitary confinement.  The findings, which were submitted to the UN Human Rights Council last month, were published alongside similar “observations” […]

Severely Disabled Man Sues New York State Prisons for Neglect, Abuse

Five Points Correctional Facility in Upstate New York.

At a time when New York State is winning praise for removing vulnerable people from solitary confinement in its prisons, the case of Mark Gizewski offers a sobering counterpoint. Although he suffers from extreme physical disabilities and lives with constant pain, Gizewski has been in and out of solitary confinement for various prison rule violations. […]

Doing “Bing Time”: Memories of a Mental Health Worker in Rikers Island’s Solitary Confinement Unit

A cell in Rikers Island's Central Punitive Segregation Unit.

The following post is a chapter from an unpublished book by Mary Buser, who worked in various capacities in the mental health system on Rikers Island. In Buser’s own words: “I worked in the Rikers Mental Health Department as a psychiatric social worker for five and a half years, leaving Rikers in 2000. I started off as a student intern […]

Lawsuit Secures New Limits on Solitary Confinement in New York’s Prisons

A cell in a New York State "Special Housing Unit."

Under pressure from a lawsuit brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of three people held in long-term solitary confinement, New York has agreed to a set of changes to its use of solitary and other forms of extreme isolation in state prisons. The agreement, announced on Wednesday, would bar certain vulnerable populations from isolated confinement, while […]

New York Lawmakers Introduce Bill to End Long-Term Solitary Confinement

NY State Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry speaks at a press conference announcing the HALT Solitary Confinement Act. Photo: Bernadette Evangelista

“I’m here in a steel coffin,” Jessica Casanova’s nephew wrote to her from an isolation cell. ”I’m breathing, but I’m dead.” Her nephew, she said, ”has never been the same” after spending time in solitary confinement, and his experience compelled her to speak out for the thousands held in extreme isolation in New York’s prison and jails. Casanova was one of half a […]

As New York City Jails Amend Their Solitary Confinement Practices, Abuses on Rikers Island Continue

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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 […]

Activists Urge U.S. Government to Grant UN Torture Expert Access to New York’s Prisons

A SHU cell in New York State.

In preparation for Human Rights Day tomorrow, groups opposing solitary confinement have sent letters to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, urging them to grant the request of the UN’s main torture expert for more information on and access to New York’s prisons. Juan Méndez, United Nations Special Rapporteur on […]

Seven Days in Solitary [11/24/13]

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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. • The new ACLU report A Living Death describes the more than 3,000 Americans serving life without parole for nonviolent crimes. The report was the subject of a New York […]

Voices from Solitary: Welcome to the SHU

elmira 3

Karl ChuJoy is currently serving three years in solitary confinement in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) of Elmira Correctional Facility in upstate New York, for possessing a laptop computer. He writes in a letter to Solitary Watch: “I’ve been incarcerated since I was fifteen (15) years old. I am now thirty-six (36)…I’m halfway through these three (3) […]