16 Years in Solitary Confinement Is Like a "Living Tomb"


UPDATE: Montez Spradley spent three-and-a-half years on death row in Alabama for a murder he did not commit. Read his powerful account about solitary confinement while on death row.

In California, hundreds of prisoners have been held in solitary for more than a decade – some for infractions as trivial as reading Machiavelli's "The Prince."

Gabriel Reyes describes the pain of being isolated for at least 22 hours a day for the last 16 years:

“Unless you have lived it, you cannot imagine what it feels like to be by yourself, between four cold walls, with little concept of time...It is a living tomb...I have not been allowed physical contact with any of my loved ones since 1995...I feel helpless and hopeless. In short, I am being psychologically tortured.”

That’s why over 30,000 prisoners in California began a hunger strike – the biggest the state has ever seen. They’re refusing food to protest prisoners being held for decades in solitary and to push for other changes to improve their basic conditions.

California Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard has tried to dismiss the strikers and refuses to negotiate, but the media pressure is building through the strike. If tens of thousands of us take action, we can help keep this issue in the spotlight so that Secretary Beard can’t ignore the inhumane treatment of prisoners.

Solitary is so cruel that a United Nations torture rapporteur called for an international ban on the practice except in rare occasions. Here’s why:

  • The majority of the 80,000 people held in solitary in this country are severely mentally ill or put there because of a minor infraction (it’s a myth that it’s only for violent prisoners)
  • Even for people with stable mental health, solitary causes severe psychological reactions, often leading people to attempt suicide
  • It jeopardizes public safety because prisoners held in solitary have a harder time reintegrating into society

And to add insult to injury, the hunger strikers are now facing retaliation – their lawyers are being restricted from visiting and the strikers are being punished. But the media continues to write about the hunger strike and we can help keep the pressure on Secretary Beard by signing the petition.

27,882 Signed 30,000 Needed

California Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard:

We stand with the prisoners on hunger strike. We urge you to comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 recommendations regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement.

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