American Outcasts: U.S. Prisons and Modern Day Banishment

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  The following article was published on Wednesday on The Intercept. It was written with the support of a fellowship from the Alicia Patterson Foundation. In 1986, Patty Prewitt was sent to prison for the murder of her husband. In addition to maintaining her innocence, she, like many others her age, has also been a […]

At Ohio’s Supermax Prison, a Hunger Strike Ends But Extreme Isolation Remains

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Last week, men incarcerated at Ohio’s supermax prison, the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, brought a month-long hunger strike to a close. Between 30 and 40 men had refused all meals since March 16 to protest new restrictions placed on already severely limited recreation and programming for those in solitary confinement. On Wednesday, April 15, […]

Voices from Solitary: The Safari from Pelikkkan Bay

A cell in the Pelican Bay SHU, where the writer lived for two decades.

Kijana Tashiri Askari has been in solitary confinement since 1994 after he was “validated” as a member of the Black Guerrilla Family. Until recently in California’s prisons, people who were validated as gang members were sentenced to indeterminate stays in the Security Housing Unit (SHU), where they spent nearly 24 hours in windowless cells. In […]

Voices from ADX: Living “Inside America’s Toughest Prison”

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The New York Times Magazine feature story on the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum, or ADX, in Florence, Colorado, appeared under the headline “Inside America’s Toughest Prison.” In fact, no journalist has been inside ADX for at least 15 years, but 400 men live there, some for years or decades. The story has suddenly spurred interest […]

Supreme Court Justice Kennedy: Corrections System Is “Broken” and “Solitary Confinement Literally Drives Men Mad”

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Monday used long-term solitary confinement as evidence that the “idea of total incarceration just isn’t working.” Solitary “literally drives men mad,” Kennedy said, noting that more humane alternatives are employed elsewhere in the world. Kennedy’s comments were made during a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the 2016 Budget Request for […]

UN Torture Investigator Barred from Visiting American Supermax Prisons

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More than two years ago, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, asked the U.S. State Department for permission to visit individuals in solitary confinement in supermax prisons and isolation units. He is still waiting for a response. Recently, our colleague Sarah Shourd interviewed Méndez for an article in the Daily Beast that describes his […]

Audit of Solitary Confinement in Federal Prisons: An Inside Job Reaches Foregone Conclusions

ADX Florence in Colorado, where more than 400 men are held in extreme isolation.

A long-awaited audit of the use of solitary and other forms of isolated confinement in the federal Bureau of Prison (BOP) recommends minor reforms while affirming the overall legitimacy and efficacy of a system that holds more than 10,000 people in extreme isolation. At 242 pages in length, the Federal Bureau of Prisons: Special Housing Unit Review […]

In California Prisons, Hundreds Have Been Removed from Solitary Confinement———and Thousands Remain

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It has been over three years since the first statewide hunger strike in protest of the California prison systems’ use of solitary confinement. The hunger strike, the first of many to follow, was launched by individuals housed in the state’s Security Housing Units (SHUs). The hunger strikes prompted state Legislative hearings, international scrutiny, and some […]

Civil and Human Rights Groups to Eric Holder: No New Federal Supermax Prison at Thomson

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Last week, Solitary Watch published an investigation into the new federal prison in Thomson, Illinois, which is in the process of being renovated with an eye toward activation in the next year. Sources show that Thomson is intended to be in effect a supermax prison, with 400 “Administrative Maximum” cells for extreme solitary confinement, and 1500 […]

New Federal Supermax Prison Will Double Capacity for Extreme Solitary Confinement

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Amid growing controversy around the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails, and in advance of an audit of its own prison “segregation” practices, the federal government is quietly moving ahead with a plan that would significantly increase its capacity to house individuals in long-term isolation. The 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill passed by […]