Children in Lockdown: Solitary Confinement of Teens in Adult Prisons

While there are no concrete numbers, it’s safe to say that hundreds, if not thousands of children are in solitary confinement in the United States–some in juvenile detention facilities, and some in adult prisons. Short bouts of solitary confinement are even viewed as a legitimate form of punishment in some American schools.  In this first post on the subject, we address teenagers in […]

Children Sentenced to Die in Prison

In the process of researching a post on children in lockdown, we read several recent reports on children sentenced to life without the possibility of parole (LWOP). The topic warrants a post of its own, especially since the practice is currently under review by the Supreme Court of the United States. According to the web site for 2007 PBS “Frontline” documentary When […]

No End to U.S. Torture

One year ago today, newly inaugurated President Barack Obama signed an executive order outlawing torture. The order was supposed to put an end to the kinds of abuses described by Scott Horton in “The Guantanamo “Suicides,’” the stunning new Harper’s article that documents the probable murder of three detainees in 2006. Horton writes: The presence of […]

America's "Most Isolated Man" Sues the Bureau of Prisons

Tommy Silverstein has spent 26 years in federal supermax prisons under a “no human contact” order. Now, with the help of students at the University of Denver’s law school, he is one of a handful of prisoners who are challenging long-term solitary confinement on Constitutional grounds. Silverstein, now 57, was first sent to San Quentin for armed robbery in 1971, […]

Inmate Allegedly Placed in Solitary for Refusing to Bribe Guards

This story by Adam Lynn, about Washington state’s McNeil Island Correctional Center in Puget Sound, appeared recently in The Olympian. It’s one extreme example of the retaliatory use of solitary confinement by prison staff. The guardians of a state prison inmate who suffered brain damage when he tried to hang himself claim in a lawsuit that at the time he […]

Solitary Deaths in Immigrant Detention Centers

If the lockdown units of U.S. prisons comprise a largely hidden world, perhaps most secretive of all are the nation’s immigrant detention centers, where noncitizens live for years in often horrendous conditions–and sometimes die–obscured from public scrutiny. The New York Times and ACLU have begun to pull back the shroud of secrecy around these deaths, filing Freedom of Information Act […]

The Maine Redemption: Bill Seeks to Restrict Use of Solitary in State's Prisons

Most Americans’ knowledge of the Maine prison system probably ends with the grim, gray penitentiary depicted in The Shawshank Redemption.  But the prison of Stephen King’s imagination is a benign place compared with the current reality of incarceration in Maine’s state prisons–especially its 100-man solitary confinement unit. Conditions in the lockdown unit have become the subject of public debate in recent […]