Federal Supermax Prison “in Violation 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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

In States That “Reduce” Their Use of Solitary Confinement, Suffering Continues for Those Left Behind

A cell in the supermax unit at Maine State Prison. Photo by Lance Tapley.

Under pressure from activists, lawsuits, and even a few reformers within the corrections system, several states have significantly reduced the number of people they hold in solitary confinement in their prison systems. These reductions, achieved largely through “reclassifying” prisoners and returning the least troublesome ones to the general population, have rightly been celebrated by opponents […]

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 […]

GAO Report Questions Widespread Use of Solitary Confinement in Federal Prisons

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The U.S. Bureau of Prisons currently holds more than 12,400 individuals in 23-hour-a-day lockdown, making it the largest practitioner of solitary and other forms of isolated confinement in the nation, and most likely the world. Yet the BOP does not know whether its use of “segregated housing” has any impact on prison safety, how it affects the prisoners […]

Obama’s 2014 Budget Confirms Plans for “ADX Thomson,” New Federal Supermax Prison

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The Obama Administration’s 2014 budget request for the Department of Justice, released this week, confirms that the federal government will open a second ultra-secure supermax prison within the next two years. The new prison will be an “Administrative Maximum U.S. Penitentiary.” Administrative Maximum is a security classification currently held only by the notorious ADX Florence in Colorado, where […]

Seven Days in Solitary [4.4.13]

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The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement  from the past week. •  First Run Features announces the New York premiere of Herman’s House this week. The film, which explores the “injustice of solitary confinement and the transformative power of art,” will be opening April 19,2013, at Cinema Village in New York City. • WUSA9 […]

Federal Bureau of Prisons to Undergo Review of Solitary Confinement Practices

Cell at ADX federal supermax

On Monday, the office of Illinois Senator Dick Durbin put out the following press release, announcing that the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) had agreed to submit to a review of its solitary confinement practices. In 2010, a spokesperson for the BOP said that federal prisons held approximately 11,150 prisoners in some form of segregated “special housing.” This figure includes the 400 […]