As you read this, there are more than 80,000 people in solitary confinement in prisons across the United States. They’re locked up in closed cells for at least 23 hours every day and deprived of human contact for months, years, even decades.

In California, where I have worked with AFSC to end this inhumane practice, the average stay in solitary confinement is six years. Six years.

It’s impossible to overstate the psychological damage that long-term isolation can inflict on a person. Multiple studies have shown that solitary confinement can cause debilitating symptoms—paranoia, uncontrollable rage or fear, panic attacks, hypersensitivity to noise and touch, and difficulty with thinking and memory.

The U.N. Committee Against Torture has repeatedly condemned the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, stating that the practice is cruel, inhumane, and degrading, and in some cases amounts to torture.

No human being should ever be treated this way. For any reason.

Prisoners and their families have taken the lead in making the public and policymakers aware of this cruelty taking place in U.S. correctional facilities. Although we’re finally seeing signs that society is waking up to this reality, we are far from abolishing solitary confinement in the United States.

To learn more, please join us on Sept. 16 for “Buried Alive,” a one-hour live-streamed discussion about solitary confinement in U.S. prisons.

I will be joined by my colleagues:
• Peter Martel, program associate with AFSC’s Michigan Criminal Justice Program. Peter’s knowledge of solitary confinement comes from his work at AFSC supporting incarcerated people as well as from first-hand experience—he spent 10 years in solitary confinement while in prison for armed robbery.
• Lewis Webb, program coordinator in AFSC’s New York office. He leads the Campaign to End the New Jim Crow in New York and is part of the Healing and Transformative Justice program and the Quaker Network to End Mass Incarceration.

We’ll discuss what solitary confinement looks like in the United States and the growing movement to put a stop to this injustice once and for all.

In Peace,

Laura Magnani
Director, Healing Justice Program
AFSC San Francisco office