Photo: AP

Solitary confinement is torture. Confinement in a solitary cell with a cellmate? That my be even worse.

It is becoming an increasingly mainstream recognition that confining prisoners in small cells alone for extended periods of time is fundamentally inhumane. President Obama has banned solitary confinement for juveniles; states have been taking their own steps to cut back on the use of solitary in prisons. But even as we see these baby steps of progress, few of us may have considered the fact that in prisons across America, overcrowding has led to something even more horrifying than solitary confinement: small solitary cells with an extra bed added in to accomodate two prisoners. This devastating story by The Marshall Project and NPR examines the consequences of such claustrophobic treatment, that is widespread beyond belief:

While there are no national statistics on the number of people confined in double-cell “solitary,” at least 18 states double-up a portion of their restrictive housing, and over 80 percent of the 10,747 federal prisoners in solitary have a cellmate...

In Menard [a prison in Illinois], double-celled prisoners are placed in rooms that are a foot-and-a-half narrower than those in general population (too narrow, one inmate has said, to do push-ups). Gerard Schultz, who was double celled at Menard for a cumulative eight months, explained in a letter that he had to create a schedule with his cellie to determine when someone could stand up.

These prisoners receive limited rec time and only two showers per week. The rest of the day and night, they are locked in a tiny, stuffy cell with a stranger, too small to even allow them to both stand up at the same time. “Being housed in solitary confinement with another person, unable to escape that person’s presence, habits, or tactics, is like wearing a corset made of nails and explosives, constantly,” one inmate who murdered his cellmate told The Marshall Project.

If we cannot jail people humanely we should not be allowed to jail them at all. What the fuck.

[The full story]