The Documentary Podcast
America’s solitary inmates
Thursday, 22 April
Since the pandemic struck, millions around the world have endured lockdowns, with many finding it hard to tolerate long periods indoors. But what if lockdown meant years on end spent entirely alone, in a single room, sometimes no bigger than a large elevator? In many US states, jails and prisons routinely use solitary confinement to enforce discipline and indeed, sometimes to quarantine inmates for health reasons. Officials say it’s essential to ensure safety behind bars. Prisoners can be segregated for serious and violent offences, but also for infringing minor rules. And some have spent decades in isolation, despite the United Nations defining a stretch of more than fifteen days as torture. As one of the most prominent states, New York, now moves to accept the UN limit and reform the use of segregation, Hilary Andersson meets inmates and prison staff to understand what this draconian punishment is like, and what its psychological effects can be upon those affected, who include children as young as thirteen.
Produced for radio by Michael Gallagher
If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in this programme, you can contact help at Befrienders International: www.befrienders.org
(Image: A juvenile inmate in a cell seen through the door hatch. Credit: Richard Ross)