A new investigative report released by the New York Civil Liberties Union details the use of solitary confinement in New York state prisons, often with disturbing results. Solitary confinement–referred to as “extremem isolation” by the NYCLU, as two people are often subjected to the conditions commonly associated with the term “solitary confinement” at once–is often used in an arbitrary and unjust way, harms prisoners and corrections officers, and decreases prison and community safety, according to the report. NYCLU reporters spent a year investigating extreme isolation, speaking with more than 100 people who have spent time in extremem isolation, as well as family members and corrections officers.
Aside from the obvious psychological effects of the practice — “I feel like the walls are closing in on me. I get suicidal,” reported one prisoner–the statistics about when, how often, and against whom solitary confinement is used are staggering. For example: eight percent of New York’s prisoners are in extreme isolation at any one time, the vast majority of whom are being punished forn non-violent offenses. The number of black prisoners kept in extreme isolation is disproportionately high– “while blacks represent about 14 percent of the state’s population, they account for nearly 50 percent of the prison population and 59 percent of the population in extreme isolation,” according to the NYCLU–and juveniles and the elderly are regularly kept in solitary confinement.
Downloaded the full report here. The NYCLU also created a short film detailing the realities of extreme isolation in New York prisons, which can be seen below.