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.
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?
This month, the 23rd also falls at the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover – the commemoration of the liberation of Jews from slavery in Egypt thousands of years ago. Each Passover, Jews around the world retell the story of their ancestors’ liberation from slavery and recommit themselves and their communities to working toward liberation today. That consciousness has inspired Jews for generations to engage in social justice work, including fighting for a criminal justice system free from oppression and injustice. As they observe the holiday this year—especially tomorrow, April 23rd—no doubt some Jews will be thinking of those desperate for liberation from the physical and psychological constraints of 23 hours a day in isolation.