Seven Days in Solitary [10/26/22]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | October 26, 2022

New from Solitary Watch:

On October 27 at 8pm ET, Unlock the Box will host a virtual reading from the 2016 book Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement, edited by Solitary Watch staff, on Facebook and Instagram Live. The event will feature advocates and survivors of solitary, who will read excerpts from the book and lead discussions on the material. For more information and to RSVP, visit the event page here

An op-ed by Solitary Watch contributing writer Juan Moreno Haines appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Haines, an incarcerated journalist who has experienced solitary confinement, interviews men held with him at San Quentin State Prison about Governor Gavin Newsom’s veto of the California Mandela Act, which would have sharply limited the use of solitary in the state. “The numbers tell a damning enough story” about the harms caused by solitary confinement, he writes. “I’ve also seen the toll firsthand.” Haines urges California legislators not to let the governor’s veto “be the end of the fight against this torturous practice. Lawmakers should try again next year and every year until a governor signs those restrictions into law.”

Our pick of other news about solitary confinement:

In an essay for Prison Journalism Project, incarcerated writer Jeffrey McKee describes how his mental health has severely deteriorated after being held in solitary 15 times. McKee, who was often put in solitary after filing lawsuits or writing to elected officials about prison conditions, now experiences acute mental distress while alone and in group settings. “I have intense thoughts, feelings and compulsions, which, if articulated, would surely land me in the hole indefinitely,” he writes. 

The Miami Herald has published an investigation into the 2017 death of Craig Ridley, who died one month after corrections officers tackled him to the ground and paralyzed him by dislocating his neck. Following the assault, Ridley was placed in solitary confinement, where he remained without medical care for five days before he was moved to a hospital. Each time Ridley told nurses who walked past his isolation cell that he couldn’t move, according to one incarcerated person, they would “laugh an[d] make jokes and keep going.” 

In an interview with KLKN-TV, Cody Shafer discusses his experiences as an individual with autism in the Nebraska prison system. Shafer, who was released in 2021, was forced to spend most of his incarceration in restrictive housing because of his autism and mental health diagnoses. “You feel inhuman, you feel like a lab pet,” he said. “I know other people are experiencing this day in and day out. And yet other people are seeing this and not saying, ‘This is wrong.’”

The 19th reports that senators Amy Klobuchar and Susan Collins have introduced a bill that would establish standards of care for pregnant women in federal prisons and prevent them from being placed in solitary confinement during their third trimester. Similar legislation at the state level, the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, is currently making its way through the state legislature in Pennsylvania. However, advocates warn that legislation does not always ensure humane treatment, and emphasize that pregnant people should not be held in prison in the first place. 

Baptist News reports on an Equal Justice USA webinar featuring Natasha White, a survivor of solitary and advocate with the Virginia Coalition on Solitary Confinement. White shared stories from her time in solitary and called for faith communities to join the fight to end solitary. “This practice breaks the spirit of people, and it breaks their hearts,” she said. Sam Heath, a staff member at Equal Justice USA, echoed White’s message and reminded people of faith looking to heal violence that “solitary confinement is itself an act of violence.” 

KPVI reports that PA Stands Up may have to regather thousands of signatures to put a referendum on solitary confinement on the Lackawanna County ballot. PA Stands Up is currently suing the county’s Board of Elections for rejecting its petition to put the referendum on the November ballot, but even if it wins the lawsuit, the existing signatures may be invalidated. Ashleigh Strange of PA Stands Up said that, if needed, the group will recirculate the petition to collect signatures in time for the May 2023 primary election. 

ABC 8News reports that the mother of Anwar Phillips, who died in solitary confinement at Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison this January, is questioning the circumstances behind her son’s death. The Virginia Department of Corrections states that people in solitary must be checked on every 40 minutes, but Phillips was reportedly not seen for a 10-hour period before his death. “The case of Anwar is devastating because you don’t know the truth,” said Natasha White of the Virginia Coalition on Solitary Confinement. “The worst part about solitary confinement is that no one cares about you anymore.”


Solitary Watch encourages comments and welcomes a range of ideas, opinions, debates, and respectful disagreement. We do not allow name-calling, bullying, cursing, or personal attacks of any kind. Any embedded links should be to information relevant to the conversation. Comments that violate these guidelines will be removed, and repeat offenders will be blocked. Thank you for your cooperation.

Leave a Reply

Discover more from Solitary Watch

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading