jailbird

Solitary confinement is a torture device. In New York, an inmate can be sent to solitary for a nonviolent rules infraction like too many stamps or being in the wrong place.

For Maria, solitary confinement “made me want to use more.”

“I went from not caring to not giving a f–k,” Maria said.

The Queens native is currently serving time in one of New York state’s female prisons. Though she was already a drug user before she got locked up, Maria says that her addiction has only gotten worse since she’s been behind bars, where she started experimenting with more substances than the pot, alcohol and occasional pills she was doing on the outside.

Drugs felt like “a necessity” in the harsh world of prison, but eventually that “necessity” landed Maria in solitary confinement. That’s when, she says, she stopped “giving a f–k.”

Though the specifics vary from one prison system to the next, typically solitary confinement means being alone in a 6×9 or 8×10 cell for 22 to 24 hours a day. Sometimes, there’s an opportunity for outside recreation — but in some facilities, that just means going out into a tiny “dog cage,” alone and shackled. Meals and meds are pushed in through a slot in the door.

There are different types of isolated confinement, though they go by different names in different prison systems. There’s psychiatric and medical isolation, punitive isolation, protective custody, and administrative isolation for the “safety and security” of the facility.

Solitary confinement is a routinely used weapon in the prison guard’s arsenal. In New York — as in many other states — solitary sentences can be doled out for trivial, nonviolent rules violations. If you’re not familiar with the workings of the criminal justice system, you might assume that solitary is for the worst of the worst. But you would be wrong…

For a closer look at just how ineffective solitary confinement in prisons is when it comes to sobriety and recovery, check out the rest of the original feature article, How Solitary Confinement Destroys Any Hope of Sobriety, over at The Fix.