Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Horrifying Truth of Life in Solitary Confinement, From People Who Lived It

After attempting suicide in 2005, Henry* was taken out of the general prison population and placed into solitary confinement. While there, he felt like the world was crushing in on him. He began hallucinating, and talking to people who weren't there.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice diagnosed Henry with bipolar I disorder with psychotic features, yet left him in isolation, where self-harm is eight times more likely and suicide five times more frequent than in the general prison population.
Henry is not the only one to meet such a fate. According to a recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas (ACLUTx), more than 6,500 Texas prisoners, including those with preexisting mental health concerns, are currently confined to 60-square-foot windowless cells, alone. 
The ACLUTx collected tales of Texas inmates screaming, self-mutilating and hallucinating while in solitary confinement for its 2015 report, which asserts that such isolation not only compromises inmates' mental health but also leads to increased crime and violence within prisons.
Such assertions are all the more distressing in light of the fact that, as the New York Times has noted, prisoners sent to solitary confinement are often there for breaking a rule, and not for violent behavior. What's more, these horrific stories of seclusion, desolation and abuse aren't exclusive to Texas: Tens of thousands of people across the country are isolated in similar cells, with human contact limited to the hands of correctional officers sliding meals through door slots or, sometimes, physically harming detainees. African-Americans and Latinos are sent to solitary confinement in particularly large numbers, and these racialized groups are also subject to the harshest and most dehumanizing conditions

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