New York has agreed to a major overhaul in the way solitary confinement is administered in the state’s prisons, with the goal of significantly reducing the number of inmates held in isolation, cutting the maximum length of stay and improving their living conditions. Read more…
Critics of Solitary Confinement Are Buoyed as Obama Embraces Their Cause
Before he was exonerated of murder and released in 2010, Anthony Graves spent 18 years locked up in a Texas prison, 16 of them all alone in a tiny cell.
Actually, he does not count it that way. He counts his time in solitary confinement as “60 square feet, 24 hours a day, 6,640 days.” The purpose, Mr. Graves came to conclude, was simple. “It is designed to break a man’s will to live,” he said in an interview.
An estimated 75,000 state and federal prisoners are held in solitary confinement in the United States, and for the first time in generations, leaders are rethinking the practice. President Obama last week ordered a Justice Department review of solitary confinement while Congress and more than a dozen states consider limits on it. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in a Supreme Court ruling last month, all but invited a constitutional challenge. Read more here…
Secular Mindfulness for Solitary Confinement
We’ve been at work on our mindfulness course for inmates in solitary confinement. Below is the introductory section from the short manual we’ve put together as a quick access to learning how to meditate and work with your mind in solitary. We’re also writing a much longer, much more detailed book on mindfulness–how to do sitting meditation, how to recognize confused projections of thought and emotion, how to work with intense emotions like fear, desire, and anger, and how to cultivate an attitude of kindness. We will offer study questions, as well as mindfulness and contemplation practices to help inmates explore their consciousness, looking at the causes of confusion and suffering, and to develop a discipline of sanity in working with their minds.
PRACTICING MINDFULNESS IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
To be constricted in a tight space within four walls with nowhere to go, no one to talk to, and little to do all day creates a situation for many inmates of claustrophobia and emotional stress, just as it would for most people if you put them in that situation. In Ad-Seg, inmates often find themselves caught up in the wildness of their minds, thinking obsessively, counting the cracks in the floor over and over, growing desperate, starting to shout, even hallucinating or hearing voices that aren’t there—their minds go off the rails and they feel helpless to stop them.
This is indeed a very intensified situation in which to face your mind. There’s no entertainment, no distraction, no activities, just your body and your thought process in a small room with no way out.
But this is where mindfulness and sitting meditation can be immensely useful. If you’ve never tried to deal with your thoughts before or looked carefully at what goes on in your mind, now’s your chance. It’s a challenging, powerful thing to undertake, but it can be done, and it leads to a place of knowing how to develop peacefulness, mental stability, and insight into your own psychology. [Read more…]
Far from being a last-resort measure reserved for the “worst of the worst,” solitary confinement has become a control strategy of first resort in many prisons and jails. Today, incarcerated men and women can be placed in complete isolation for months or years not only for violent acts but for possessing contraband, testing positive for drug use, ignoring orders, or using profanity. Thousands of prisoners are held in indefinite solitary confinement because they have been named as gang members by other prisoners who are rewarded for the information. Others have ended up in solitary because they have untreated mental illnesses, are children in need of “protection,” are gay or transgender, are Muslim, have unsavory political beliefs, or report rape or abuse by prison officials. Read More from SolitaryWatch: http://solitarywatch.com/facts/faq/