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 […]

Seven Days in Solitary [5/18/14]

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. • The New York Times published an op-ed by Harvey Fierstein about the 16-year-old girl currently being held in solitary confinement in a Connecticut prison, despite the fact that she […]

Voices from Solitary: Head Cases

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The following piece, including the introduction, was originally published in the Colorado Independent, and is republished here by permission.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . Editor’s note: Yesterday, the Colorado General Assembly passed a bill to ban the use of long-term solitary confinement for prisoners with […]

Voices from Solitary: Analyzing Isolation, Part I

ADX Florence, Florence Colarado

This post is the next in a series of pieces Solitary Watch is publishing as part of a project calling for people held in solitary confinement to write on various proposed themes. Our second suggested theme, “Analyzing Isolation,” calls for writers to provide their analyses of solitary, discussing ways in which the practice is counterproductive.  […]

Voices from Solitary: “Finally Out and Among the Living”

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This essay by John Jay Powers was published by the Colorado Independent, with the following introductory note by editor Susan Greene. Greene has corresponded with Powers for years, and included him in her multimedia investigation of solitary confinement, The Gray Box. “Jack Powers is an inmate in the federal Bureau of Prisons convicted of bank robbery and escaping from prison. […]

“This Draconian System of Punishment and Abuse”: An Interview with Former Political Prisoner Ray Luc Levasseur

Photo copyright Matthew Robbins, from the Portland Phoenix.

The following is a partial transcript of an interview with Ray Luc Levasseur, a former political prisoner who spent over fifteen years in solitary confinement, primarily at USP Marion and ADX Florence. Levasseur was raised in Maine, born to a working-class family of Quebecois origin. He became politically radicalized about race and class at a […]

Voices from Solitary: “A Prison Where the Building Becomes the Shackles”

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Former political prisoner Ray Luc Levasseur was raised in Maine, born to a working-class family of Quebecois origin. He became politically radicalized at a young age, first after serving a term of duty in Vietnam, and again after spending two years in a Tennessee prison.  In 1986, Ray Luc Levasseur was convicted for militant activities conducted […]

Federal Bureau of Prisons Details Plans for Limited “Audit” of Solitary Confinement Practices

A cell at ADX Florence federal supermax, where individuals may spend years or decades in extreme solitary confinement.

Last week, representatives of six nonprofit organizations critical of solitary confinement met in a closed-door meeting in Washington, D.C., with the team hired to conduct an internal audit of the federal Bureau of Prisons’ controversial “segregation” policies. The idea for an audit came out of Senator Dick Durbin’s June 2012 Senate hearing on solitary confinement, […]

Under Fire, the Federal Bureau of Prisons Audits Its Use of Solitary Confinement——and Buys a New Supermax Prison

Solitary confinement cells at ADX Florence, the federal supermax in Colorado.

Amidst growing criticism of its abundant use solitary confinement, the federal Bureau of Prisons has quietly set in motion an “internal audit” to review its “restricted housing operations.” The audit, which has been contracted out to a Washington think tank and will be conducted largely by former corrections officials, seems unlikely to bring any dramatic change […]

Inside ADX Supermax, Part 1: “A Bloody Nightmare”

Harold Cunningham

In June 2012, a federal lawsuit was filed by eleven prisoners at the United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX Florence) against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The facility houses approximately 450 men from across the country in solitary confinement units. The lawsuit alleges that inmates diagnosed with mental illnesses are denied constitutionally adequate […]