Louisiana on Lockdown

The report, LOUISIANA ON LOCKDOWN: A Report on the Use of Solitary Confinement in Louisiana State Prisons, With Testimony From the People Who Live It, is published by Solitary Watch, the ACLU of Louisiana, and the Jesuit Social Research Institute at Loyola University New Orleans.More than two years in the making, it is based primarily on a survey completed by 709 people in solitary in all nine of Louisiana’s prisons, the largest ever survey of people living in solitary.

“For decades, solitary confinement occupied one of the darkest corners of the U.S. criminal justice system,” said Jean Casella, Co-Director of Solitary Watch, a national watchdog group that investigates and reports on the subject. “Even now, most of what we know is based on data provided by corrections departments. That information is incomplete without the testimony of people who know what it means to live for months, years, or even decades in a 6-by-9-foot cell, cut off from nearly all human contact.”

The responses to the survey paint a grim picture of long stretches of time spent in small cells that are often windowless, filthy, and/or subject to extreme temperatures, where individuals are denied basic human needs such as adequate food and daily exercise, and subject to many forms of abuse as well as to unending idleness and loneliness, resulting in physical and mental deterioration.

“These cells drive men mad,” wrote Carl, who reported spending years in solitary. “I have personally witnessed one man take his life, another tried to by running the length of the tier and smashing his head into the front bars, sadly for him he still lives, if you can really call it that…” Those who survive the isolation, Carl wrote, are nonetheless destroyed by it: “Too much hurt, too much pain, too much confusion, we are lost, lost from God, lost from reality.”

These responses are consistent with a growing body of evidence showing the devastating and often permanent psychological and physical harm caused by prolonged isolation. In 2015, the United Nations called on countries to prohibit the use of solitary beyond 15 days, declaring it cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment that in many cases rises to the level of torture.

Read full report here:

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