Ending Inmate Isolation: Inside the Battle to Stop Solitary Confinement in America

Just before 2:30am Daniel Treglia jostled awake at the sounds of the mechanical iron doors slowly screeching open. The jangling keys and the heavy footsteps that followed were all part of the normal soundscape inside the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison, where guards patrol hourly each night. But on that early morning in March, these sounds signified something new — after nearly nine years, Treglia’s time in solitary confinement had finally come to an end. There was … [Read more...]

The End of Solitary Confinement

What is California going to do with "the worst of the worst"? Standing in the warden's office at Pelican Bay, the notorious maximum security prison in Crescent City, California, I don my dark green stab-proof vest and accompany public information officer Lieutenant Christopher Acosta and Associate Warden Rawland Swift (who has since retired) to the Security Housing Unit, or SHU. Acosta is curt and bulldoggish, with a smooth, bald head. Swift is affable and mustachioed, wearing a casual … [Read more...]

One in Five US Inmates Put in Isolation Each Year

Almost one in five inmates in American prisons and jails spend time in solitary confinement or segregation over the course of a year, according to a government report, which found prisoners were more likely to encounter such conditions if they were younger, identified as LGBT or had mental health problems. In the first survey of its kind, the US Justice Department found that about 20% of people in state and federal prisons and 18% of those in local jails said they had spent time in … [Read more...]

The Damage of Youth Solitary Confinement in California

East Bay advocates want juvenile jails to stop isolating inmates — but correction officials continue to argue that the questionable tactic is essential to control "dangerous" kids. n 1995, when he was two-and-a-half years old, DeAngelo Cortijo witnessed his mother attempt suicide. After that, he lived in a shelter and eventually ended up in long-term foster care. By age seven, he was regularly acting out in class, and on one particularly bad day when he was ten years old, he locked himself in a … [Read more...]

Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life

In 1993, Craig Haney, a social psychologist, interviewed a group of inmates in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison, California’s toughest penal institution. He was studying the psychological effects of isolation on prisoners, and Pelican Bay was among the first of a new breed of super-maximum-security prisons that states around the country were beginning to build. Twenty years later, he returned to Pelican Bay for another set of interviews. He was startled to find himself facing … [Read more...]

If the SHU Fits

une is recognized around the world as Torture Awareness Month. The Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) was adopted on June 26, 1987, and the day was declared the “International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.” At this event, we will present If the SHU Fits-Voices from Solitary Confinement, and follow with a session to: * Share Stories * Discuss Strategies to make meaningful change and * Take Action! If the SHU Fits is … [Read more...]

Why The U.S. Won’t Let the U.N. Look Inside Its Prisons

n 2010, Juan Mendez was appointed Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Degrading and Inhumane Treatment by the United Nations. His mandate is wide in size and scope—to expose and document torture wherever it exists on the planet today. Since the beginning of his mandate Mendez has made criticizing the overuse of solitary confinement a priority. In 2011, he issued a report stating that 22 or 23 hours a day alone in a prison cell for more than 15 days at a time can cause permanent, … [Read more...]

Women In Solitary Confinement: Buried Inside the Federal Prison System

his past September, in response to continued criticism around its use of solitary confinement, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) began an internal audit of its “restricted housing operations.” As noted earlier by Solitary Watch, no women’s prisons are listed in the Scope of Work provided by the team hired to conduct the Special Housing Unit Review and Assessment. The BOP’s Public Information Office was unable to comment on this apparent omission. Although they are absent from the audit, … [Read more...]

Torture By Design: Saying No to the Architecture of Solitary Confinement and Cruelty

An Interview with Raphael Sperry Friday, August 16 marked the 40th consecutive day of a multi-ethnic statewide prisoner hunger strike initiated from inside the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of California's Pelican Bay State Prison. When the strike first began on July 8, the 'California Department of Corrections and Reform' (CDCR) reported 30,000 participants statewide, which the Los Angeles Times wrote "could be the largest prison protest in state history." This week, as the striking … [Read more...]

Light a Candle to Dispel the Darkness of Solitary Confinement

Almost two years have passed since the summer, 2011 hunger strikes initiated by men in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison. The peaceful hunger strikes (eventually joined by up to 12,000 prisoners in the state) were geared at the realization of five core demands all of which the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s top administrators admitted were reasonable at the time! Two years later, key demands have yet to be met!! Unless Governor Jerry Brown and the … [Read more...]