Federal Supermax Prison “in Violatation of International Law”: Amnesty International

Interior of a cell at ADX Florence. Photo from Amnesty International © Private.

Many times, on this site and elsewhere, we have referred to supermax prisons and solitary confinement units as “America’s domestic black sites“–places where terrible suffering, even torture, take place on a daily basis, out of site of the public, the press, and in some cases the government’s own meager oversight. At the dark heart of […]

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

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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 [6/8/14]

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 […]

Seven Days in Solitary [5/25/14]

Solitary confinement news roundup

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 Texas woman has filed a lawsuit alleging that in 2012, she was forced to give birth in solitary confinement without medical assistance, leading to her baby’s death.  […]

Holder Makes Obama Administration’s First Public Statement on Solitary Confinement

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In a weekly video message earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder made the first public statement on solitary confinement to emerge from the Obama White House (or, as far as we know, any U.S. presidential administration). A statement accompanying the 3-minute video on the Department of Justice’s website outlines the position taken by Holder–and, by implication, the DOJ […]

Voices from Solitary: “That Which Does Not Kill Us…”

A cell at supermax Wisconsin Secure Program Facility in Boscobel

The following comes from Glenn T. Turner, 40, who has been held in solitary confinement at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF), since 2010, when he was assigned to the facility’s General Segregation Program Process. In his piece, Turner, who has been in and out of solitary confinement since 1992, provides a firsthand account of the devastating effect isolation […]

Seven Days in Solitary [5/11/14]

Solitary confinement news roundup

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. • Representative Cedric Richmond (LA-02) introduced the first-ever federal legislation addressing the use of solitary confinement, called the Solitary Confinement Study and Reform Act of 2014.  If passed, the […]