15 Days

End the Torture of Solitary Confinement

In the US today, more than 80,000 people - men, women, and children - live up to 23 hours a day in tiny cells without natural light, air, or human contact. Many remain there for months, years, or even decades.

The UN's expert on torture considers more than 15 days in solitary confinement a human rights violation. The US is the only democratic nation that makes widespread use of long-term solitary confinement in its prisons, even for minor, nonviolent infractions as simple as having too many postage stamps.

Is solitary confinement torture? What effect does it have on the people who endure it? 

Hear one man’s story »

Cell at Pelican Bay state supermax in California.

Isolation gnaws at the brain. Imagine yourself in your own windowless bathroom, day after day, with no human touch or able to see the sun, much less feel it. I am keenly aware of every single minute. Time weighs heavy.
— Tony, 9 years in solitary
If I try to imagine what kind of death, even a slow one, would be worse than twenty-five years in the box—and I have tried to imagine it—I can come up with nothing.
— William, 25 years in solitary

Cell at ADX Florence, the federal supermax prison in Colorado.

By the third week, I found myself squatting in a corner of the yard, filing fingernails down over coarse concrete walls. My sense of human decency dissipating with each day.
— Cesar, 11 years in solitary
I’ve hung up with a self-made noose and sliced my wrist, because this place has driven me to the brink of insanity.
— Shawn, 14 years in solitary
One man took the plastic face off his radio, sharpened the plastic on the floor of the cell, and cut the jugular vein out of his neck.
— Steven Jay Russell, 17 years in solitary
After years of this torture, will I survive on the outside? Will I be able to be held by my loved ones, after all these years of no human contact? Will I even be myself again? The person I was before solitary confinement shattered my spirit?
— Toby, 13 years in solitary
Solitary confinement cell in Illinois.

Solitary confinement cell in Illinois.