Alone
July 30, 2014 6:48 PM   Subscribe

The Center for Investigative Reporting conducted a year-long investigation into the problem of teens held in solitary confinement and chronicles what it found in the short documentary “Alone.”

Almost half of all teens at New York City's Riker's Island suffer from some form of mental illness, and the experience of solitary confinement exacerbates these problems.
There’s not much inside “the box.” Cinder block walls rise up and close in. There’s a bunk, a sink, a toilet and a metal door with a small mesh window. Food comes through a slot. Sometimes, mice and roaches scamper through.

Teenagers kept in the box sometimes hallucinate and throw fits. They splash urine around or smear their blood and shit on the walls. The concrete room gets so hot in the summertime that the floor and walls sweat.
The investigation also resulted in a graphic novel portraying the story of "Izzy" Nazario, a teen who spent more than 300 days in solitary at Riker's Island. Nazario is one of hundreds of teenagers sent in recent years to solitary confinement at Rikers Island, the massive jail complex in the middle of New York City’s East River. Teenagers at Rikers call solitary confinement "the box": 23 hours a day in a 6-by-8-foot cell.

In May, after more than a year of lobbying against solitary confinement for teens by advocates such as the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called on states to end the excessive use of solitary confinement on juvenile inmates.

To learn more, read the joint ACLU/HRW report "Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States" (141-page PDF report, multimedia content)
posted by drlith (19 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the video: Most of these people have not been convicted of anything.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:05 PM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


God, this is so sick and fucked.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:47 PM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


a teen who spent more than 300 days in solitary

fuck whatever pisswizards think this is an okay thing to do to anyone, let alone an obviously troubled teenager.

Where's the compassion? Christian nation, my ass. (NB: that's aimed at the people who like to trumpet that the USA is a Christian nation. In my experience it's the ones who don't who actually act closer to what Jesus would have liked.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:53 PM on July 30, 2014


Sick fuckers.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:16 PM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is so horrific I could explode. WHAT THE FUCK. Human beings are such terrible creatures. Even when terrible, none deserve torture. We need to stop this shit.

When my mom was forcibly held in rehab as a troubled teen they made her do weird stuff like have everyone in the room sit around you and say the worst things they think about you, and have all the kids take turns doing that to you to "build your character"

It's amazing how sick and disturbed the people who make these programs can let their minds go. It's horrific. On the one hand, maybe higher staff to kid ratios in treatment facilities and juvenile justice centers and more funds because the higher quality the care the better the kids will get and the less behavior problems they will have. (And the more the program can be designed to safely accommodate behavior problems that can't change ever or on a noticeable timescale).

I want to stop this, there has to be a way to stop this.
posted by xarnop at 8:25 PM on July 30, 2014


I've been to jail three times for a total of eight days. One time, not in solitary but in a cell of my own for two days. The cell was small, maybe eight by ten but fifteen feet in height so you couldn't hang yourself from the pipes way way up on the ceiling. There was book under the mattress that the guards had overlooked and a tiny pencil but somehow I couldn't read or write. I knew I was getting out in a couple of days [PROTIP, don't get arrested on a Friday because the judge doesn't show up till Monday] but it was still a fucking nightmare.
"When I can conclude he's not gonna cause me the blues, then he can come out of the cell"
A prisoner who has spent 28 straight years in solitary confinement may be released into the general prison population, according to the Louisiana warden who has allegedly kept him confined in a 6 by 9 foot cell for 23 hours a day.
I'm one of the few people here on metafilter that will admit to having been to jail and l'd like to tell you - you have no idea how difficult, even for a weekend, it is to be alone in a locked room.
posted by vapidave at 8:37 PM on July 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


A prisoner who has spent 28 straight years in solitary confinement

what. how? how broken do you have to be as a person to do that to someone? how many broken people are working at just that one prison, that they'd all walk past someone who has spent 80% of my entire life in solitary confinement?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:45 PM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]




Re my comment about, this interview from Feministing is a good round up of how fucked this is. The kid is a ward of the state. There are people willing to give this girl a home, and the state won't release her. They continue to insist that she has to be incarcerated.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:18 PM on July 30, 2014


How can it be legal to lock kids in closet-sized spaces for months on end?

And I help pay for this? Disgusting.

I just sent an email to my representative, Keith Ellison, with a link to the documentary and a plea that he help put an end to this torture.

If anyone else is in MN's 5th Congressional District, you can send Keith Ellison an email here:

http://ellison.house.gov/contact

Mr. Ellison is a good person, and I hope he will help.
posted by agog at 9:25 PM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


"what. how? how broken do you have to be as a person to do that to someone? how many broken people are working at just that one prison, that they'd all walk past someone who has spent 80% of my entire life in solitary confinement?"

Not sure what you mean by "they'd all walk past" but the prison is Angola here in Louisiana. The prison has 1,700 employees.

Louisiana incarcerates more people per capita than any other state - more than twenty five percent more per capita than Mississippi, the next closest state.
posted by vapidave at 10:06 PM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Can a society be sociopathic? Can a culture be mentally ill?

I think the answer is "yes", and in this, I think we see the proof of it.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:59 PM on July 30, 2014 [9 favorites]


God Bless America.

Cf. “Evidently Incompetent Or Worse,” Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Politics Blog, 30 July 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 1:20 AM on July 31, 2014


Not a week goes buy but I read something like this and know in my bones I did the best thing possible for my kids when I moved them the hell out of the U.S.
posted by digitalprimate at 2:58 AM on July 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


Not sure what you mean by "they'd all walk past" but the prison is Angola here in Louisiana. The prison has 1,700 employees.

How many of those employees knew there was a man held in solitary for twenty-eight years?

The only fitting punishment for them is to be locked up the same way for the same amount of time, but I'm not a sociopathic asshole, so I'd be content with a weekend of solitary, each.

Maybe that's the way to start ending this shit (and yes, I know, it's mostly racism): fuck this 'living like you're on welfare for a week' total BS. Put everyone involved in creating these policies in solitary, but don't tell them how long they'll be there. Between a week and a month.

Wait no that still makes me a sociopathic asshole. Fuck.

Human contact is one of the near-universal things that all human beings need. We are a social species. How anyone can think it's reasonable to put someone in solitary confinement at all is beyond me. How anyone can think it's reasonable to let someone rot since 1986 makes me feel like a gerbil trying to do calculus.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:57 AM on July 31, 2014


I imagine that ending solitary confinement will be an uphill battle, as some states won't even put forth the effort to prevent prison rape.
posted by TedW at 8:34 AM on July 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well they had it coming to them dontcha know. Sigh.

Man-on-man rape is something that isn't really dealt with well by society in general (I mean fuck we're still in the goddamn dark ages when it comes to man-on-woman rape); fixing it in prisons is an impossibility I think, in the current social climate. Which is so sad. What's worse is how many people just make offhand jokes about prison rape as though it's okay because it's happening to a (maybe; racism) criminal, or because it's a man it doesn't count, or something. The stigma attached to male rape victims is pretty awful too.

(NB: in no way am I saying that men being raped is anywhere even remotely close to the number of women being raped every day, and obviously the bigger problem needs to be dealt with first. No question.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:02 AM on July 31, 2014


There's an insane irony when people who actually lock kids up in closets outside of jail never see jail time, and then this shit happens.
posted by odinsdream at 9:43 AM on July 31, 2014


"In an extraordinary rebuke of the New York City Department of Correction, the federal government said on Monday the department had systematically violated the civil rights of male teenagers at Rikers Island by failing to protect them from the rampant use of unnecessary and excessive force by correction officers.

The office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, released its findings in a graphic 79-page report that described a “deep-seated culture of violence” against youthful inmates at Rikers, perpetrated by guards who operated with little fear of punishment."
posted by rtha at 11:34 AM on August 4, 2014


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