Tag Archive: solitary confinement

Solitary Confinement May Dramatically Alter Brain Shape In Just Days, Neuroscientist Says

A solitary cell at Angola prison in the early 1970s

A solitary cell at Angola prison in the early 1970s

From Think Progress

Solitary confinement has been called a “living death,” cruel and unusual, and torture. Studies of the prison practice of placing inmates in a solitary, often concrete windowless cell for 23 hours a day with almost no human contact, have found that the psychological impact is dramatic after just a few days.

A University of Michigan neuroscientist suggested Friday that the physical impact on the brain could be just as significant if not moreso, and could “dramatically change the brain” in just a matter of days. Speaking on a panel about solitary confinement, neuroscientist Huda Akil said inaccess to inmates has prevented much formal study on brain changes while held in confinement. But she said a number of other studies have documented how each of the factors involved in solitary confinement change the physical shape of the brain. The lack of physical interaction with the natural world, the lack of social interaction, and the lack of touch and visual stimulation alone are each “by itself is sufficient to dramatically change the brain,” Akil said at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.

She said particular parts of the brain that are subject to extreme stress can “actually shrink,” including the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory, spatial orientation, and control of emotions. (more…)

“The Year of Justice and Freedom?” A Message to Supporters from Albert Woodfox

Albert Woodfox would like to take time to express profound gratitude to all the wonderful friends, supporters and comrades around the world for your unbelievable solidarity and support!
I’m not sure what the New Year means to you. For me, it’s the realization that another year of mental and emotional torture has started! I constantly ask myself, is this the year of justice and freedom? Or just another year of the same?
Is this the year that I lose my battle against constant attacks of claustrophobia, mental and emotional pain and suffering? Is the year that I run out of creative ways that allow me to ignore time and space, and the weight of the world crushes me, instead of making me stronger? (more…)

Voices from Solitary: “This Massive Mind-Fuck Machine”

sean-swainFrom Solitary Watch

Sean Swain is has served 22 years of a 20-to-life sentence for a murder he maintains was committed in self-defense. He has done many long stints in solitary confinement, and is currently being held at the supermax Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown. A self-proclaimed anarchist, he has twice run for governor of Ohio from his prison cell. His writing appears at www.seanswain.org. The following comes from a letter to Solitary Watch written in December. He welcomes mail at: Sean Swain 243205, OSP, 878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road, Youngstown, OH 44505.  –Jean Casella

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I arrived here at Ohio’s super-duper-uber-meza-ultra-max on 29 August. I call it that because super-max sounds so ridiculous. If maximum is maximum, the most, what can be “super” or “beyond” the maximum? If it’s more secure than the already-existing maximum, then it supercedes it as being the new maximum, but it doesn’t become super-maximum. This is my deliberate, hyperbolic use of multiple prefixes to heckle the state’s grammatical euphemists.

They even have to abuse language. (more…)

Santa Was in Prison and Jesus Got the Death Penalty

santabehindbars300x200From Solitary Watch

This post has become a Christmas tradition at Solitary Watch. To all our readers, warm wishes for the holidays. Special thanks to those who have helped us bring a small ray of light into the darkness of solitary confinement by supporting our Lifelines to Solitary project.

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As Christmas is celebrated in Incarceration Nation, it’s worth remembering certain things about the two figures who dominate this holiday.

As more than 3,000 Americans sit on death row, we revere the birth of a man who was arrested, “tried,” sentenced, and put to death by the state. The Passion is the story of an execution, and the Stations of the Cross trace the path of a Dead Man Walking.

Less well known is the fact that Saint Nicholas, the early Christian saint who inspired Santa Claus, was once a prisoner, like one in every 100 Americans today. Though he was beloved for his kindness and generosity, Nicholas acquired sainthood not only by giving alms, but by performing a miracle that more or less amounted to a prison break. (more…)