On November 1, 2022, Solitary Watch announced that it is accepting proposals for the Ridgeway Reporting Project, which will award grants to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated journalists. The project will fund work in all media for publication in outlets nationwide, with the goal of expanding public awareness and understanding of solitary confinement and other dangerous or inhumane conditions of confinement in U.S. federal and state prisons, local and tribal jails, immigration detention centers, and juvenile facilities. Through the generosity of the Vital Projects Fund and the James Ridgeway Memorial Fund, Solitary Watch will be awarding grants ranging from $500 to $2,500. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2023.
While it contains more than two million people—a population larger than all but four U.S. cities—the American carceral system has been kept largely off-limits to the public and the press. Barbaric and unconstitutional living conditions, deadly neglect, and routine brutality are widespread, yet receive minimal attention. Solitary confinement, which functions as a prison within a prison, has been particularly difficult to access. The Ridgeway Reporting Project aims to expose this world from the inside out, and honors the late James Ridgeway (1936-2021), veteran investigative journalist and founder of Solitary Watch.
A complete description and submission guidelines can be found here: Ridgeway Reporting Project Announcement and Guidelines. Recipients will be notified and announced by June 2023.
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In 2019, a group of journalists received grants in a previous round of this project, then called the Solitary Confinement Reporting Project. The grants supported projects in a variety of media that examined the use of solitary confinement across the U.S. carceral landscape, from prisons and jails to immigrant detention facilities. Recipients ranged from award-winning veteran journalists to emerging young reporters, and included six incarcerated writers as well as one recently released from prison. Projects were chosen from dozens of submissions by the team of Wilbert Rideau, a renowned prison journalist who edited The Angolite and received the George Polk, Sidney Hillman, and Robert F. Kennedy Awards, and Solitary Watch’s James Ridgeway.
For the two years following distribution of the grants, Solitary Watch staff worked with recipients to help shape, edit, and place the stories in a variety of publications—especially essential for journalists working from the inside. Links to the grant-funded stories can be found below.
• Roshan Abraham, “In New York, Few Resources for Solitary Confinement Survivors After Prison,” City Limits
• Matthew Azzano, “Inside the Underground Economy of Solitary Confinement,” The Marshall Project
• Jeremiah Bourgeois, “Digging Our Way Out of the Hole: The Safe Alternative to Solitary,” The Crime Report
• Renée Feltz, “Hunger for Justice: Immigrant Detainees Are Being Punished for Refusing to Eat,” The Progressive
• Susan Greene, “GEO-run Aurora ICE Detention Center Is Isolating Immigrants—Some Mentally Ill—in Prolonged Solitary Confinement,” The Colorado Independent
• Juan Moreno Haines, “In San Quentin Prison, Getting the Flu Can Land You in Solitary Confinement,” The Appeal
• Kenneth Hartman, “Inside the Hole: The Experience of Solitary Confinement in California,” Solitary Watch
• Elizabeth Hawes, “Incarcerated Women Are Punished for Their Trauma With Solitary Confinement,” Truthout
• Arthur Longworth, “How to Survive Supermax,” The New Republic
• Thomas Whitaker, “Secret Solitary,” Guernica
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A Note to Readers: Our late founder, James Ridgeway (1936-2021), was at the heart of Solitary Watch’s dedication to the voices of incarcerated people—as sources, as writers in our Voices from Solitary series, and most recently, as journalists reporting from inside prison walls. After Jim’s unexpected passing, Solitary Watch created the James Ridgeway Memorial Fund.
To support this work, which was so close to Jim’s heart, please consider donating to the fund. To make an online donation, please go to solitarywatch.org/donate and designate your donation for the Ridgeway Fund. To donate by check, please make your check payable to Social & Environmental Entrepreneurs and indicate “Solitary Watch/Ridgeway Fund” in the memo. Send to: SEE, 23564 Calabasas Road, Suite 201, Calabasas, CA 91302. All donations are fully tax-deductible. Thank you for your caring and generosity.