Texas has one of the harshest and most punitive criminal justice systems in America. A new report shows just how inhuman the state of Texas is when it comes to doling out the punishment of solitary confinement.
If you have any doubt that solitary confinement is torture, all you need to is to listen to the stories of those who have been forced to endure it. Nevertheless, a new report from the ACLU of Texas finds that about one in ever 22 prisoners there is in solitary confinement— more people "than 12 states house in their entire prison systems."
Here is a description of the life of one prisoner who has been in solitary for ten years, from the report:
There is no window in Alex's cell. His field of vision is limited to peering through the Plexiglas slit in his cell door to the door of the cell opposite him. Alex has not seen the stars in a decade. "I miss that so much," he writes. "One time I was going to the hospital, down to Galveston and we were riding the ferry and the sun was coming up and it was the only one I'd seen in years. I'm a pretty tough guy, but it brought tears to my eyes."
Alex struggles to fall asleep at night. Usually, he can only sleep for four hours. The fluorescent light hanging from his ceiling remains on all night. The cell block constantly echoes with screams because some of the men confined in neighboring cells have gone insane, cutting themselves or eating their own feces. Alex is overwhelmed by the noise: "Constant banging, clanking, rage, anger," he writes. "Like a jammed packed area for a boxing match with everyone screaming murder. The night sounds are the worst. More personal and filled with sadness. It sounds like hell.
Solitary confinement is a form of torture and it should only be used in the most necessary circumstances, and not for very long periods. (This it not just an American problem—here is a new story on the use of solitary confinement in Nova Scotia, for example.)