Since 2002, USA Today has been tracking nine Texas offenders released on one day, all of whom spent prolonged periods in isolation, either as punishment for misconduct in prison or for their association with criminal gangs. The nine have all returned at least once, and some many times. Some describe a type of sensory paralysis that seemed to overwhelm them once they were finally free, a troubling consequence of the most extreme condition of confinement that has recently drawn the scrutiny of the Justice Department, prison officials and lawmakers across the U.S. In September, the Association of State Correctional Administrators characterized the prolonged isolation of offenders as “a grave problem” in the U.S., where little information exists to evaluate confinement conditions, the policies governing assignments to segregation and the numbers of people being held in such conditions.
The association and