Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America’s Prisons.

Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America’s Prisons.

“Prisoners spend an average of 7.5 years in the Pelican Bay SHU, the only one for which the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has statistics. More than half of the 1,126 prisoners here have been in isolation for at least five years. Eighty-nine have been there for at least 20 years. One has been in solitary for 42 years.

California is just one of many states where inmates can be thrown into solitary confinement on sketchy grounds—though just how many is hard to know. A survey conducted by Mother Jones found that most states had some kind of gang validation process, but implementation varied widely, and a number of states would not disclose their policies at all. Seventeen states said they don’t house inmates in ‘single-celled segregation’ indeterminately. (No state officially uses the term ‘solitary.’)

It’s unclear how many states keep inmates in solitary as long as California does. Texas has 4,748 validated affiliates of ‘security threat groups’ in indefinite solitary—more than California’s prison gang affiliates—and some have been there for more than 20 years. Louisiana has held two Black Panthers in solitary for 40 years. Minnesota is near the opposite end of the spectrum, holding inmates in segregation for an average term of 29 days. At least 12 states review an inmate’s segregation status every 30 days or less; Massachusetts does it weekly.”

This is one of the more horrifying things I’ve read recently. I really have no words to express how hopeless, sad, and angry reading this article made me. I’m still glad I read it. Prison reform isn’t very glamorous, but if we don’t do something soon, about this, about mandatory sentencing, about privately owned prisons… I don’t know what’s going to happen to this country.

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