Laverne Cox Shares Stories From Solitary

August 21, 2014

Actress Laverne Cox is taking action to end the use of solitary confinement. This month, Solitary Watch highlighted the story of Synthia China Blast underscoring the violence, abuse, and sexual assault transgender women face in New York’s prisons. Blast has been held in solitary confinement for over a decade. In a joint letter to the New York State Department of Corrections from the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and the Trans Women of Color Collective, the practice of routinely placing transgender people in prolonged solitary confinement often results in irreversible mental and physical harm.

Synthia China Blast

Synthia China Blast, a transgender woman held in solitary confinement in a New York prison for over a decade.

NCTE commends Laverne Cox for putting a spotlight on solitary confinement. As detailed in Orange is the New Black, “protective” solitary confinement doesn’t actually protect anyone. But to end solitary confinement, New Yorkers must take action. That’s why the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, FIERCE, and the Audre Lorde Project have launched a petition demanding an end to so called “protective” solitary confinement in New York.

Sign the petition here.

Placing transgender people—or anyone else—in solitary isn’t protection; it’s torture. By putting pressure on New York prison officials, New Yorkers can make a difference now in the lives of some of our communities’ most vulnerable members.


Senate Subcommittee Hearing Considers Ending Solitary Confinement

February 25, 2014

An estimated 80,000 people are in solitary confinement in the United States at any given time. Today, the US Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights will hold a hearing on the human rights, fiscal and public safety consequences of solitary confinement. This is a follow-up to a hearing held in 2012, and since that time there have been further actions by state and federal officials to reassess, limit, and in some cases eliminate the use of solitary confinement. The head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons will testify today about his agency’s promise to review the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons. Senators will also hear from the head of Colorado’s prisons, who—charged by that state’s governor with limiting the use of solitary—penned an unsettling New York Times op-ed about spending a day in solitary himself.

Read our testimony here:

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Use of Solitary Confinement Faces Growing Skepticism

March 12, 2013

This past Sunday, NPR’s All Things Considered feature story focused on the growing evidence against solitary confinement. According to NPR:

“An estimated 80,000 American prisoners spend 23 hours a day in closed isolation units for 10, 20 or even more than 30 years.

Now, amid growing evidence that it causes mental breakdown, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has decided for the first time to review its policies on solitary confinement.”

The federal review follows a Senate hearing last summer led by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Durbin was moved to call the hearing by surgeon Atul Gawande’s harrowing New Yorker article, “Hellhole,” on the psychiatric impact of solitary confinement. At the hearing, corrections experts testified that while there may be some limited usefulness for solitary confinement for short periods of time, over an extended period it is usually unnecessary and exacts huge costs, both fiscal and human. Senators heard how some states have sharply limited or eliminated solitary confinement, saving money and sparing suffering. As the NPR story notes, most inmates will ultimately return to their communities – and returning them broken from the trauma of solitary has costs for communities as well.

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