Dear Friends:

Torture is not health care.

Torture is not protection.

Torture is not the way to survive a pandemic.

Solitary confinement has been globally recognized as torture.

Yet in response to COVID-19, 300,000 incarcerated individuals—a five-fold increase from the pre-pandemic population—have been forced to endure solitary confinement, and suffer the deep and lasting damage that comes from even brief stays in isolation.

Rather than turn to humane and effective strategies to stop the spread of COVID—including decarceration and sound public health practices—prisons and jails have simply locked people in solitary when they have been exposed to the virus, and even when they are sick.

Yet the coronavirus infection rate remains four times higher in prisons than in the population at large. An overwhelmingly disproportionate number of incarcerated people are black and brown, and many have physical, psychological, and cognitive disabilities—which render them dangerously vulnerable to the effects of both COVID and solitary.

Solitary Watch was the first to expose the explosion in the use of solitary confinement and its failure to stop the spread, with groundbreaking reporting that formed the basis of an influential report. And we have raised up the voices of people inside, who describe being left to suffer through COVID alone inside concrete boxes.

Without work like ours, this suffering, which is hidden behind prison walls, takes place in silence. Drawing on the lessons of an earlier pandemic, we know that silence still does—and always will—equal death.


Over more than a decade, through original reporting, research and analysis, and work with partners, Solitary Watch has been instrumental in raising public awareness of a once-invisible human rights crisis. Our work informs and supports the community of advocates, journalists, attorneys, health professionals, public policymakers, and thousands of incarcerated individuals working to expose the devastating damage caused by solitary confinement.

Against entrenched practices and attitudes, this work helped bring about a slow but steady decline in the use of solitary in recent years. Then came the coronavirus pandemic.

Solitary Watch needs your support now more than ever to regain the hard-won progress made on this issue. With your help, we will uncover the facts and tell the stories that engage the hearts and minds of the American public to reject the harm being done in their name.

There has never been a better time to make a gift to Solitary Watch. Thanks to NewsMatch, every donation made through December 31st, 2020, will be matched up to $5,000 per donation. And if you choose to make your gift recur monthly or quarterly, your donations will be matched every time throughout the year.


The torture taking place in our prisons—and especially in solitary cells—depends upon silence to survive. Please support our work, and help us break the silence.

Thank you.

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