In a press conference this afternoon, President Joe Biden announced and signed a new executive order, primarily focused on policing, that also includes a directive on reducing the use of solitary confinement in the federal prison system. The portion of the executive order referring to “restrictive housing”—the federal term for solitary—appears as part of Section […]
• The Vera Institute of Justice published an article writing about the “Crisis of Isolation” in lockup as a response to the pandemic. They describe the emotional toll on families when prisons denied visits between incarcerated people and their loved ones, and Clinique Chapman, associate director for Vera and MILPA’s Restoring Promise initiative, states, “The impact […]
New this week from Solitary Watch: • Thomas Bartlett Whitaker published a piece in Solitary Watch’s Voices from Solitary series, describing his time on “Deathwatch,” a solitary confinement section of Texas’s Polunsky Unit for those with execution dates. Whitaker was housed there before his death sentence was commuted to life in prison. He says, “Nobody wants […]
Thomas Bartlett Whitaker‘s writing has been previously published on Solitary Watch (here and here); was selected for inclusion in our 2016 anthology Hell Is a Very Small Place; and received a grant from our Solitary Confinement Reporting Project in 2019. His work has also taken top prizes in the PEN Prison Writing Awards for both fiction and essay. Hundreds of pieces […]
New this week from Solitary Watch: • Chris Wilson published in the Voices from Solitary series, about his experience entering prison as a 17 year old, about the 117 days he spent locked up, and about the art he created after leaving solitary. He describes, “Going into it, I knew I wanted to create something beautiful […]
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Born and raised outside of Washington, DC, Chris Wilson is a formerly incarcerated author, artist, advocate, and entrepreneur. At the age of 17, Wilson was sentenced to life in prison, and, over the next 16 years, spent over 117 days in solitary confinement.
New this week from Solitary Watch: • In the first of a series of monthly dispatches from Solitary Watch, Vaidya Gullapalli writes about the ineffective, inhumane use of punishment for rehabilitation in lock-up. She describes the extreme of this punishment, noting that “the response to difficult or dangerous behavior, acts of survival or resistance, or even […]
This is the first of a new series of monthly dispatches from Solitary Watch. Two weeks ago, a Tuesday morning in New York City, where I live, began with shock and horror. A man riding the subway at rush hour shot multiple passengers in a crowded car. Ten people suffered gunshot wounds and at least thirteen others […]
New this week from Solitary Watch: • Melat Eskander interviews a man with several mental disorders incarcerated in Pennsylvania for Solitary Watch, highlighting the anti-Black racism he has experienced as well as treatment neglect. Eskander describes how “[i]n jails and prisons throughout the country, people with mental illness of all races suffer mistreatment and medical neglect, […]
In May 2021, Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania became the first jurisdiction in the United States to ban nearly all uses of solitary confinement by a referendum of the county’s voters, following years of abuse allegations and multiple suicides at the county jail. The new policy was supposed to go into effect in December, but, as […]
This article is published in partnership with the Crime Report. During Tashon’s incarceration, prison staff used one word so often to describe him that it became routine. He heard it while having a breakdown in his cell. He heard it when he requested an appointment with a psychologist or asked to be sent to the […]
• On the New York Times’ The Daily podcast, reporter Adam Liptak discusses the case of Dennis Wayne Hope, a Texas man who has spent the past 27 years in solitary confinement. Hope’s lawyers have asked the Supreme Court to consider whether such prolonged isolation violates his Eighth Amendment rights. If the Supreme Court decides to […]
• Spectrum News Albany reports that New York’s HALT Solitary Confinement Act went into effect on April 1st. The legislation, which was signed into law in 2021, ends the use of solitary confinement in state prisons and local jails for some groups and limits its use to 15 days for everyone else. Though it has been […]
• The Vera Institute of Justice published a report outlining their guidelines for humane and ethical medical quarantine, insisting that because of COVID-19, “far too many people were left behind in unsafe facilities that have used solitary confinement cells and implemented solitary confinement conditions in regular cells.” Among their list of requirements are a sanitary living […]
• The Lens NOLA reports about two bills that have been introduced in the Louisiana legislature to protect the health of incarcerated people, one to create a medical advisory council to approve policies, and another to eliminate co-pays. In 2016 Solitary Watch’s Katie Rose Quandt and James Ridgeway wrote about substandard medical care at Angola prison […]
• KTVH reports that the Montana Department of Corrections has settled a case with Disability Rights Montana, agreeing to provide people with “severe mental illness” with “appropriate care, treatment, and housing.” While the litigation was ongoing, 12 people with mental health issues died by suicide in the prison. Recently, the Western News reported on the “unreasonable […]
This article was published in partnership with Truthout. When the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spiked across the nation in late 2021, approximately 1,350 people incarcerated in the District of Columbia Jail were sequestered in solitary confinement conditions in their cells for 22 hours a day. “It was dehumanizing,” said Russell Rowe, of the repeated COVID lockdowns […]
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At Connecticut’s Cheshire Correctional Institution, Hamid Muhammad and his blockmates are often locked in their cells for upwards of twenty-two hours a day. The lockdowns have put tremendous stress on the men, according to Muhammad, and when they are let out, guards sometimes curse at them and encourage fights. “Tempers are raging to a boiling […]
• The Colorado Sun reports that the state legislature rejected a bill that would have created a commission responsible for ensuring local jails follow protocol regarding health standards, food and visitation services, and use of solitary confinement. The legislature instead opted to send the bill for further study. Legislation that limits solitary confinement in local jails […]
In 1991, Southport Correctional Facility became New York state’s first “supermax”—a prison designed to hold people in near-total isolation. In a 2017 article, Victoria Law reported on the experience of people held there in an article for Solitary Watch. Approximately 350 men were in solitary confinement at the prison, over 90 percent of them Black […]
• Reason published an article following the State of the Union about President Biden’s unfulfilled campaign promises, saying “neither the White House nor Biden had much to say about the sweeping criminal justice platform that he ran on.” The administration drafted an executive order last fall, as Solitary Watch and the Appeal recently reported, instructing that […]
• A Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee voted to amend legislation that would have limited solitary confinement to 15 days to instead require that prison officials study the issue, reports the Virginia Mercury. One of the bill’s advocates, Delegate Patrick Hope, stated, “I don’t want a study, but the alternative was that this bill was going […]
After a bold campaign promise, the president has remained almost silent as thousands languish in solitary in federal prisons. Advocates say they remain hopeful that he will find his voice on the issue. This story was published in partnership with The Appeal. “Biden believes no act can justify the inhumane treatment of an individual in […]
This week, The Marshall Project published a long essay by Matthew Azzano, which was written with the support of a grant from the Solitary Confinement Reporting Project, managed by Solitary Watch with funding from the Vital Projects Fund. Matthew Azzano, 24, was born and raised in Rochester, New York. After serving two years in New York prisons, he is completing a bachelor’s degree […]
• The Washington Post Editorial Board published an opinion piece discussing the ongoing, 27-year solitary confinement of Dennis Hope, stating, “Solitary confinement is a sanitized term for torture.” The article describes Hope’s pleas to the Supreme Court, and highlights that the last phone call he was permitted to make was in 2013, when Hope’s mother passed […]
Today, the Washington Post published an editorial titled “Call Solitary Confinement What It Is: Torture.” It is the strongest condemnation yet by a major national newspaper of the practice used on tens of thousands of people in U.S. prisons and jails. (Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the estimate was at least 80,000; now the number […]