Ask Shane Bauer Anything: Life After Solitary Confinement

By Chas Danner Shane Bauer is an investigative journalist and photographer who was one of the three American hikers imprisoned in Iran after being captured on the Iraqi border in 2009. He spent 26 months in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, four of them in solitary confinement. Following his release, he wrote a special report for Mother Jones about solitary in America’s prison … Continue reading Ask Shane Bauer Anything: Life After Solitary Confinement

Solitary Confinement for the Innocent

The Bush administration does it again. Many detainees at Gitmo have been released – because they were never guilty of anything, merelky subkect to bounty-hunters in Pakistan. Among these victims of circumstance are thirteen Chinese Uighurs, none of whom ever intended any terrorist activity against the U.S. The government knows they are innocent so what … Continue reading Solitary Confinement for the Innocent

Not A Single, Solitary Good Reason

Last summer, we highlighted the hunger strike of 30,000 prisoners against California’s draconian solitary confinement system. Now, Jessica Pishko suggests the practice may be on its way out: Earlier this month, a federal judge in Oakland held that five inmates currently locked up in California’s Pelican Bay State Prison are permitted to move forward with their class action, Ashker v. Brown, on behalf of over 500 … Continue reading Not A Single, Solitary Good Reason

Ask Shane Bauer Anything: Shattered By Solitary

Here he emphasizes how terribly ineffective solitary confinement is as a method of rehabilitation: And in our final video from Shane, he shares how he and his fellow hostages kept each other sane while imprisoned in Iran: Shane, Sarah and Josh’s memoir based on their experience as political prisoners in Iran is called A Sliver Of Light. You can find a selection of excerpts … Continue reading Ask Shane Bauer Anything: Shattered By Solitary

A Pen Pal In Solitary

A reader writes: I never imagined that I would someday be in a position where I personally know someone in solitary confinement, or that I would be able to confirm what Atul Gawande wrote in The New Yorker about solitary confinement: “Whether in Walpole or Beiruit or Hanoi, all human beings experience isolation as torture.” I … Continue reading A Pen Pal In Solitary

Solitary For Life

Solitary confinement has a way of outliving its justifications. First it was supposed to inspire spiritual reflection and penance, then it became a last-resort punishment. Now, Rob Fischer reports, isolation units serve as long-term housing for gang members: Ninety-eight per cent of inmates in Pelican Bay [State Prison]’s [security housing units (SHUs)] are there because … Continue reading Solitary For Life

United Against Solitary

Approximately 30,000 prisoners have entered the third day of what might be the largest hunger strike in California’s history. The strike, which has spread to Washington state, has already left ten prisoners under medical observation. Abby Ohlheiser provides context: While the California prison system has a less than stellar reputation on a handful of issues–many of which trace … Continue reading United Against Solitary

The Nobility Of Burma’s Democracy Movement

Min Ko Naing, one of the student leaders from the 1988 uprising in Burma who has been in and out of solitary confinement for decades, now urges support of President Thein Sein's gradual reform – which means working with the ruling elite. Christian Caryl captures the political prisoner's grace:

During his most recent stint in a remote provincial prison, he discovered that the inmates included a former army colonel who had an active part in one of his earlier arrests; the ex-officer had landed in jail after losing out in a power struggle in the upper reaches of the regime. Min Ko Naing told me how he had made a point of treating the man with respect rather than enmity. When the officer was released along with the other prisoners in January, journalists approached him for interviews. But he declined, and referred them instead to Min Ko Naing, who, he said, spoke for all the prisoners. “The main emotion I feel for him is pity,” Min Ko Naing told me. “As for me, I have political beliefs. That was why I was in jail. But in his case, a tree fell, and he just happened to be one of the branches.”

Caryl considers the distinctly Burmese approach to national reconciliation:

Connecticut Kills The Death Penalty


by Zack Beauchamp

Connecticut's House passed a bill banning the death penalty yesterday. Ari Kohen celebrates:

I watched a couple of hours of the discussion in the House yesterday and one thing was made very clear: Opponents of this bill had no argument whatsoever to back up their opposition. They told horror stories about murders in their districts; they said they believed the death penalty was a deterrent; they claimed that the death penalty was less expensive than life imprisonment; they claimed that there was no bias in capital sentencing; and they worried that life imprisonment wouldn’t actually mean life imprisonment. Most of this is just false.

Jacob Williamson compares capital punishment to solitary confinement:

“The Moral Scandal Of American Life”


That's Adam Gopnik's view of mass incarceration in the US:

Every day, at least fifty thousand men—a full house at Yankee Stadium—wake in solitary confinement, often in “supermax” prisons or prison wings, in which men are locked in small cells, where they see no one, cannot freely read and write, and are allowed out just once a day for an hour’s solo “exercise.” (Lock yourself in your bathroom and then imagine you have to stay there for the next ten years, and you will have some sense of the experience.)