This month, a Texas prisoner reached 30 consecutive years in administrative segregation, more commonly known as solitary confinement, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Three consecutive decades — 10,957 days — seems an extraordinarily long time to spend locked in a small room for a minimum of 22 hours each day. (In 1985 Ronald Reagan was president and “Back to the Future” was the breakout movie.) In Texas, it's fast becoming less remarkable. A second Texas prisoner passed the 30-years-in-solitary mark last week. A third will reach it June 15, a fourth on Aug. 3.
By the end of November, there will be 10 inmates with the distinction of having spent one score and 10 years in one room, with others not far behind; the state has more than 100 prisoners with at least 20 years in solitary confinement under their belts. While many of those who have served the longest in solitary are also some of the state's worst criminals, that's not always the case. Two of the inmates who will reach the 30-year solitary mark this year are serving time for burglary. Since 2006, the number of Texas prisoners kept in solitary (known in the bureaucracy as “ad seg” or “administrative segregation”) declined 37 percent, from nearly 10,000 to around 6,000, or from 6 percent to 4 percent of the inmate population. By contrast, in Mississippi 1.4 percent of inmates are kept in solitary.