New Solitary Watch Fact Sheet Series Launches with “Racism and Solitary Confinement”

by | June 15, 2022

Today, Solitary Watch is publishing the first in a series of fact sheets offering facts, analysis, and resources on a variety of topics related to solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, jails, and immigrant and juvenile facilities. The first fact sheet, written by Melat Eskender, covers how racism in the U.S. punishment system plays out in relation to the use of solitary.

Download “Racism and Solitary Confinement: Solitary Watch Fact Sheet #1” (2022, PDF)

As the fact sheet states, “The systemic discrimination that has led to the mass incarceration of people of color has replicated itself within solitary confinement. Behind bars, people of color are more likely to be perceived as a threat by staff and more likely to face serious punishments in comparison with their white counterparts. Both factors contribute to racial disparities in the use of solitary confinement.”

The fact sheet also documents racial disparities in how mental illness is treated in the punishment system: “When incarcerated people of color demonstrate behavior related to mental illness, they are more likely to be punished with solitary confinement, and less likely to receive diagnoses of mental illness than their white counterparts.” In addition, people of color who seek to publicize or organize against racist policies and practices can be punished with solitary. The four-page document (available as a PDF) also includes comprehensive notes and resources on racism and solitary confinement.

The next entries in the fact sheet series will cover the “Psychological Effects of Solitary Confinement” and the “Collateral Consequences of Solitary Confinement,” with nearly a dozen fact sheets currently in progress. Fact sheets are designed to be accessed online and also printed out and copied for use by educators, advocates, policymakers, and others.

Jean Casella

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.

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