After 42 Years in Solitary Confinement, Will the Angola 3’s Albert Woodfox Be a Free Man?

Albert Woodfox in 2012. Louisiana's Attorney General has called Woodfox the "most dangerous man on the planet."

In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the overturning of Albert Woodfox’s conviction. Yet he may remain in prison–and in solitary confinement–for months or even years before his four-decade ordeal is over. Woodfox has been held in solitary confinement for more than 42 years for the 1972 murder […]

UN Committee on Torture Questions U.S. Record on Solitary Confinement

Members of the UN Committee on Torture question a U.S. delegation at a hearing in Geneva last week.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, United States government officials met with representatives at the United Nations to discuss the country’s compliance with the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Every country that is a signatory to the CAT is required to submit a “Periodic Report” to the […]

Voices from Solitary: Is “Torture” Too Strong of a Word?

The administrative segregation unit at Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP) | Solitary Confinement

The following comes Ryan Pettigrew, who spent most of his eight years at the supermax Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP) in solitary confiinement. Diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, Pettigrew, like an estimated 57 percent of prisoners confined in isolation in Colorado, suffers from mental illness. Recalling his response when asked by his parole officer if his time in […]

Voices from Solitary: The Heaviness of Blood

A cell on the Polunsky Unit, Texas death row.

In 2002, Rob Will was convicted of the murder of a police officer and sentenced to death. The New York Times, among others, has pointed to a lack of physical evidence linking Will to the murder, and he continues to claim his innocence. Will remains on Texas death row, in the Allen B. Polunsky Unit, notorious […]

Pope Francis Denounces Solitary Confinement, Calls for Prison Conditions That “Respect Human Dignity”

Pope Francis washes the feet of youth in a juvenile detention center in March 2013.

In a wide-ranging speech on Thursday, Pope Francis revealed himself as a passionate criminal justice reformer. His words also suggest that he is familiar with the controversies surrounding solitary confinement and supermax prisons, and strongly opposes their use. Speaking at the Vatican to representatives of the International Association of Penal Law, the Pope said: “All Christians and people […]

Voices from Solitary: Survivors Speak

A typical cell at Polunsky |Solitary confinement

 The American Friends Service Committee has a long history of advocating for the rights of the incarcerated, and against injustice and abuse in U.S. prisons, jails, and detention centers. Recently, AFSC released a report called Survivors Speak: Prisoner Testimonies of Torture in United States Prisons and Jails. The document was prepared as a Shadow Report to the official U.S. […]

Voices from Solitary: Freedom Shares My Cell

prison-light-through-window

The following story comes from Mustafa Zulu, who has been in solitary confinement for most of the past 22 years. He was born and raised in Washington, DC, where he watched both parents struggle with drug addiction. At the age of 16, he was tried as an adult and convicted of murder. He is currently serving […]

U.S. Government Tells UN Committee on Torture: “There Is No Systematic Use of Solitary Confinement in the United States”

Representatives of "civil society" have been asked to comment on a report stating that the U.S. does not torture.

Today, dozens of advocates will travel from around the country to Washington, DC, to take part in what are called “Civil Society Consultations” with representatives of the U.S. government on the subject of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). As a signatory of CAT, the […]

Voices from Solitary: A Mouse and a Murderer

mouse

William Blake is in solitary confinement at Elmira Correctional Facility in upstate New York. In 1987, while in county court on a drug charge, Blake, then 23, grabbed a gun from a sheriff’s deputy and, in a failed escape attempt, murdered one deputy and wounded another. He is now 50 years old, and is serving […]

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

Billy Sell, Corcoran State Prison in CA. Billy Sell 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 […]