Every year, prisons send thousands of people directly from solitary confinement back into their communities. The Marshall Project and NPR found that 24 states released more than 10,000 people from solitary last year. The actual total is higher, as 26 states and the federal Bureau of Prisons could not say how often it happens. These people go from complete isolation one day to complete freedom the next, yet they may be the least equipped to make the transition home. Those in solitary, many of whom suffer from mental illnesses that were either triggered or exacerbated in segregation, often cannot participate in the classes or services offered to other inmates approaching their release date.
In several states, once inmates in solitary are freed, they are more likely to be released without the help of a probation or parole officer. Those who make the jarring leap from solitary to the streets can easily end up jobless, homeless, or back in prison. Last week, Kalief Browder, 22, committed suicide two years after coming home from New York City's Rikers Island jail, where he spent nearly all of the previous 17 months in isolation. Browder got national attention in a New Yorker profile that detailed the horrific three years he languished in jail awaiting trial for charges involving the theft of a backpack that ended up being dismissed. His family said Browder deteriorated during his time in solitary, where he twice tried to kill himself. He remained there until the day he was sent home.