Behind the razor wire-topped fences of Texas penitentiaries are 5,205 inmates branded the baddest of the bad — dubbed so devious they are locked in one-man cells for 23 hours a day often for decades, says the Houston Chronicle. Spread among 22 prisons, Texas has more inmates in so-called “ad-seg” than most other states in the nation. They have been deemed by the Department of Criminal Justice to be “confirmed” members of gangs, too organized, predatory and violent to mix with the 150,000 prisoners in general populations.
They serve their time in cages of about 9 feet by 7 feet with cement walls outfitted with solid steel doors or bars covered with mesh. “We ain’t the most likeable or most welcomed group in society,” concedes 38-year-old Anastacio Garcia, a robber who has been in isolation here for 15 years. “We sit here day in and day out, basically rotting ourselves away.” Another 4,000 or so inmates are serving temporary stints in ad-seg as punishment for breaking rules or being escape risks. The American Civil Liberties Union and others contend ad-seg imprisonment is cruel and makes inmates meaner and more dysfunctional by the time they are freed. Citing its ineffectiveness as well as cost concerns, Mississippi and Maine have scaled back its use. In California, thousands of inmates recently launched a hunger strike in protest. A Texas legislator unsuccessfully sought this year to require the prison system to review the standards for putting an inmate in ad-seg – and determine whether they are more likely than others to end up back behind bars.