Mothers with Sons in Solitary Tell Their Stories

In the run-up to Mother’s Day, the ACLU has unrolled a new feature on its website, called “Justice Mamas.” In it, a series of mothers talk honestly and movingly about what it is like to have a beloved son behind bars and in solitary confinement.

The sons themselves represent a cross-section of the kinds of prisoners who are in solitary confinement in American prisons and jails today: One is a juvenile who is in and out of solitary for minor offenses. Another suffers from mental illness and is routinely placed in isolation instead of receiving the treatment he needs. Another has been “validated” as a gang member, and is in his twelfth year of solitary confinement at Pelican Bay.

Together, they offer a sense of how solitary confinement–even more than other forms of incarceration–tears families apart and keeps prisoners separated from what is often one of the only positive forces in their lives–their mothers.

Check out the Justice Mamas page here, and the ACLU’s Stop Solitary project here.

Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

James Ridgeway (1936-2021) was the founder and co-director of Solitary Watch. An investigative journalist for over 60 years, he served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice and Mother Jones, reporting domestically on subjects ranging from electoral politics to corporate malfeasance to the rise of the racist far-right, and abroad from Central America, Northern Ireland, Eastern Europe, Haiti, and the former Yugoslavia. Earlier, he wrote for The New Republic and Ramparts, and his work appeared in dozens of other publications. He was the co-director of two films and author of 20 books, including a forthcoming posthumous edition of his groundbreaking 1991 work on the far right, Blood in the Face. Jean Casella is the director of Solitary Watch. She has also published work in The Guardian, The Nation, and Mother Jones, and is co-editor of the book Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement. She has received a Soros Justice Media Fellowship and an Alicia Patterson Fellowship. She tweets @solitarywatch.

Help Expose the Hidden World of Solitary Confinement

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Only with your support can we continue this groundbreaking work, shining light into the darkest corners of the U.S. criminal punishment system.



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