“Solitary Confinement” (Robert Walker)

Have you ever been ordered to strip 
Before half a dozen barking eyes
Forcing you against a wall
Ordering you to part your legs and bend over

Have you ever had a door slammed
Locking you out of the world
Propelling you into timeless space
To the emptiness of silence

Have you ever lain on a wooden bed
In regulation pyjamas
And tried to get the bucket to talk
In all seriousness

Have you ever begged for blankets
From an eye staring through a hole in the door
Rubbing at the cold air digging into your flesh
Biting down on your bottom lip, while mouthing
“Please, Sir”

Have you ever heard screams in the middle of 
The night
Or the sobbing of a stir-crazy inmate
Echo over and over again in the darkness
Threatening to draw you into its madness

Have you ever rolled up into a human ball
And prayed for sleep to come
Have you ever lain awake for hours
Waiting for morning to mark yet another day of
Being alone

If you’ve never experienced even one of these
Then bow your head and thank God
For it’s a strange thing indeed –
This rehabilitation system

–Robert Walker, “Solitary Confinement”


Fortresses of Solitude: Journalists Barred from Prison Isolation Units

Via Solitary Watch:

Cell doors in ADX FlorenceSupermax prisons and solitary confinement units are our domestic black sites—hidden places where human beings endure unspeakable punishments, without benefit of due process in any court of law. On the say-so of corrections officials, American prisoners can be placed in conditions of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation for months, years, or even decades.

At least 80,000 men, women, and children live in such conditions on any given day in the United States. And they are not merely separated from others for safety reasons. They are effectively buried alive. Most live in concrete cells the size of an average parking space, often windowless, cut off from all communication by solid steel doors. If they are lucky, they will be allowed out for an hour a day to shower or to exercise alone in cages resembling dog runs.

Most have never committed a violent act in prison. They are locked down because they’ve been classified as “high risk,” or because of nonviolent misbehavior—anything from mouthing off or testing positive for marijuana to exhibiting the symptoms of untreated mental illness.

A recent lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners in ADX, the federal supermax in Florence, CO, described how humans respond to such isolation over the long-term. Some “interminably wail, scream, and bang on the walls of their cells” or carry on “delusional conversations with voices they hear in their heads.” Some “mutilate their bodies with razors, shards of glass, sharpened chicken bones, and writing utensils” or “swallow razor blades, nail clippers, parts of radios and televisions, broken glass, and other dangerous objects.” Still others “spread feces and other human waste and body fluids throughout their cells [and] throw it at the correctional staff.” While less than 5 percent of US prisoners nationwide are held in solitary, close to 50 percent of all prison suicides take place there.

After three years of reporting on solitary confinement for Solitary Watch, a website I co-founded, I’m convinced that much of what happens in these places constitutes torture. How is it possible that a human-rights crisis of this magnitude can carry on year after year, with impunity?

I believe part of the answer has to do with how effectively the nature of these sites have been hidden from the press and, by extension, the public. With few exceptions, solitary confinement cells have been kept firmly off-limits to journalists—with the approval of the federal courts, who defer to corrections officials’ purported need to maintain “safety and security.” If the First Amendment ever manages to make it past the prison gates at all, it is stopped short at the door to the isolation unit.


Read full article at: http://solitarywatch.com/2013/03/05/fortresses-of-solitude-journalists-barred-from-prison-isolation-units/