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The Source: Calls To End Solitary Confinement

Flickr user: mlsnp
The Walls Unit for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Huntsville, TX

In US prisons 80,000 people are held in solitary confinement every year, spending more than 22 hours completely alone. It's expensive, its effectiveness is questionable and a growing body of work shows it exacerbates mental health issues. In addition to exacerbating mental health issues already present, there is substantial research showing it causes mental health problems.

Recidivism amongst prisoners held in solitary confinement without being transitioned back to general population  is higher, and one study showed that 50 percent of all suicide attempts at a facility occurred in solitary confinement. It is clear that there are lasting impacts to being kept in isolation for long periods of time.

Momentum is growing to end the practice at the federal level. The Senate Judiciary Committee has held recent hearings, and a litany of people on both sides of the political spectrum have called for reforms. 

In Texas, an unlikely group is calling for its end--prison guards. Death-row inmates have been kept in solitary as a result of fallout from the Martin Garule escape in 1998.  

Citing the increasing violence among death row inmates in solitary, mental breakdown, and a lack of behavior modifying tools, union president for the Huntsville local of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Lance Lowry has called on state leaders to reform the practice in a public letter.

Interesting Links:


  • Lance Lowry, President of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local 3807 in Huntsville, TX
  • Brian McGiverin, Staff Attorney at Texas Civil Rights Project
  • Angela Browne, Staff Attorney at Vera Institute of Justice dealing with segregation issues
  • Anthony Graves, exonerated after nearly 19 years and two attempts by the state to execute him.
Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive