Communities across the country are joining Together to End Solitary Confinement.
Join in coordinated actions every 23rd of the month for the 23 or more hours people spend in their solitary cell every day.
From 2011-2013, inmates in the Security Housing Units (a thinly veiled euphemism for solitary confinement) of Pelican Bay State Prison in California went on a series of hunger strikes. The largest of these strikes began on July 8, 2013, when more than 30,000 inmates throughout state-prisons in California refused state issued food.
Concurrent with the hunger strikes, in May 2012, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed Ashker v. Governor of California, a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of inmates who had spent more than a decade in solitary confinement. The landmark settlement agreement that was reached in Ashker dramatically reduced the solitary confinement population; ended the practice of placing inmates who had not violated any prison rules in isolation; and put a limit on the length of time a prisoner could spend in solitary confinement.
The Ashker case could not have existed without the brave men and women who put their own safety and health at risk by staging the largest hunger strike in the state of CA, possibly the largest in the world. We must not forget their sacrifices, or their stories. And one advocate, Charlie Hinton, is committed to making sure that the legacy of that historic hunger strike is not forgotten.
2016 has so far proven to be an inspirational and encouraging year for those fighting to end the abhorrent practice of solitary confinement, particularly as it relates to juveniles and youthful offenders. The year started off with a bang in January when the U.S. Department of Justice released its Report and Recommendations Concerning the Use of Restrictive Housing. One of the DOJ’s most pivotal recommendations was that the Federal Bureau of Prisons end the practice of placing juveniles in solitary confinement. Simultaneously, the Washington Post published President Obama’s riveting, heart-felt op-ed, where he announced that he had adopted the Report’s recommendations to overhaul the use of solitary confinement in the federal prison system, including a complete ban of the use of solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in the federal system.
This past Memorial Day weekend The National Religious Campaign Against Torture’s (NRCAT) Ron Stief and T.C. Morrow were with the Islamic Circle of North America for their Annual Convention, which was held in Baltimore, MD. At the convention, NRCAT utilized virtual reality as another way to allow people to really see what it would be like to be held in isolation. With over 20,000 attendees at the event, NRCAT, in partnership with Solitary Watch, had a phenomenal trial run of using The Guardian’s 6x9, a virtual reality solitary confinement experience. 6x9 is a mobile app developed by The Guardian, in consultation with survivors of solitary confinement, that gives users a taste of it would like be like to live in a cell measuring only 6x9 feet. The app features the haunting experiences of seven former inmates subjected to extended periods in isolation.
The movement to end long-term solitary confinement is full of tireless, devoted activists whose passion and support, month after month, year after year, is inspiring. But while these efforts have certainly sparked improvements in some areas, still, for many of us involved in the fight, progress can seem frustratingly slow. We are talking about a human rights crisis of epic proportion: tens of thousands of people in agonizing, psychologically damaging conditions akin to torture – and with little to no demonstrated benefits. The facts are on our side, and the issue is one of immediate concern. So how has this practice been allowed to continue?