Four inmates have committed suicide so far this year in Alabama state prisons—three of them in solitary confinement units. Prisoner advocates say it reflects the failure of state corrections officials to improve conditions in solitary, and the system’s inadequate treatment of mentally ill inmates.
Solitary Housing Units (SHU) were created to discipline the most violent offenders in prison and separate them from the community, but who is really sitting in the SHU? A Vera Institute study of the units in five jurisdictions came up with some disturbing answers.
The time he spent in solitary confinement, trapped in a tiny prison cell with almost no human contact, is “going to be with me for the rest of my life,” says Rev. Matthew Burke. It’s a common refrain among those subjected to what many argue is a counterproductive form of punishment for already-incarcerated individuals—but their special needs are often overlooked in prisoner reentry services.
Solitary confinement’s psychological and physical damage is now “unassailable,” a conference at John Jay College heard Thursday. While many corrections authorities still resist scrapping it, reformers told the conference a nationwide reexamination is getting traction.
Teriyona Winton, a 16-year-old Memphis girl who spent months awaiting trial for a murder in solitary confinement, will be housed in the empty wing of a prison. Her attorney says she doesn’t belong in an adult prison.
New York correctional officers union publicizes assaults by inmates and staff, blaming a cutback in solitary confinement. The state says reforms will continue and that violence in prisons dropped last year as they were being implemented.
Logs obtained by The Verge show that life inside private facilities used by the U.S. to detain immigrants can be so dangerous and hostile that many detainees have voluntarily admitted themselves to solitary confinement just to seek refuge from the general population.