NRCAT's work to end torture in U.S. prisons is focused on the use of solitary confinement. Isolation fundamentally alters the brain, creates and exacerbates mental illness, denies opportunity for community, and violates inherent human dignity. It creates toxic environments for incarcerated people, correctional staff and administrators.
On any given day, roughly 80,000 incarcerated adults and youth are held in solitary confinement. Isolated confinement has a variety of names: segregation (“seg”), “the hole." Prisoners are confined to a cell (alone, or with one other person) for 23 hours per day, with an hour alone in an exercise cage. Food is pushed through a small slot in the door. Those who have survived it describe the experience as being "buried alive".
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, stated in his 2011 report that solitary confinement in excess of 15 days should "be subject to an absolute prohibition” based on scientific evidence of its psychological damage. Half of all prison suicides occur in conditions of solitary confinement.
We invite you to join the nationwide effort to end long-term solitary confinement.
Solitary Confinement Toolkit:
- State Campaigns: The Latest
- Support federal legislation, "The Solitary Confinement Study and Reform Act of 2014"
- Viewers Guide for PBS FRONTLINE "Solitary Nation"
- Share Worship and Faith Resources
- Sign the NRCAT Statement Against Solitary Confinement
- General Resources
- FAQs About Prolonged Solitary Confinement
- Worship and Faith Resources
- NRCAT in the news
The U.S. accounts for 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's incarcerated and holds more prisoners in solitary confinement than any other democratic nation. There are over 40 state-run super-max prisons and one federal super-max prison in the U.S.-- each of which holds inmates exclusively in solitary confinement. In the early 1980s, there was one. Some argue that the use of solitary confinement is a necessary management tool used for only the “worst of the worst.” However, the reality is most prisoners end up in solitary confinement or are unable to move out of isolation due to non-violent rule infractions and as a result of mental illness.