The “Vicious Cycles” Created by Solitary Confinement

In 1993, Dr. Stuart Grassian, following extensive interviews with men in California’s Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (SHU), reported that extensive periods in solitary confinement lead to what he referred to as a “syndrome” particular to prison isolation units. Anxiety, ruminations, panic attacks, aggression, paranoia, and psychotic symptoms were observed as a consequence of […]

As Washington State Prisons Begin Reforms, 800 Remain in Solitary Confinement

On January 7th, the Seattle Times reported that “Washington’s prisons are at the forefront of a new approach to solitary confinement, finding that a new focus on rehabilitation may calm some inmates’ behavior in prison and prevent violence once they are back on the street.” The article reports: [Washingon] began reconsidering solitary after violent clashes […]

“Total Isolation”: Solitary Confinement in Oregon

David “Joey” Pedersen was arrested in 1997 for armed robbery. He was 16 years old, had been taking the antidepressant Zoloft for years (which he continued to take throughout his incarceration), and was determined to have a “slight” potential for violence. Due to Oregon’s Measure 11, he was charged as an adult. Pedersen joined prison gangs and […]

Voices from Solitary: Washington Cell Extraction

The following was sent to Solitary Watch from an inmate in Washington. He describes a recent “cell extraction”–the forcible removal of a prisoner from his cell–which he witnessed in a solitary confinement “Intensive Management Unit.” He discusses the use of cell extractions in relation to the claim by corrections officials that such actions are necessary for the safety of […]

Oregon Converts Supermax Unit to Treat Prisoners With Mental Illness

A reader recently called our attention to an article that appeared back in April in the Salem (Oregon) Statesman Journal, titled “Oregon State Penitentiary Adapts to Mental Illness.”   According to the Oregon Department of Corrections, about half of the state’s 14,000 prisoners— 6,797—are mentally ill. This is ten times greater than the population of the state’s primary psychiatric […]