Solitary Watch is a national watchdog group that investigates, reports on, and disseminates information on the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails and provides a forum for voices of people in solitary. Its mission is to expand public awareness and understanding of a once-invisible domestic human rights issue, while also informing the work of advocates and policymakers.
Other than the death penalty, long-term solitary confinement is the worst thing that can legally be done to a human being in the contemporary United States. An irrefutable body of evidence shows that solitary causes deep and lasting psychological, neurological, and physical damage to those who endure it, and by extension harms their families and communities. The incalculable suffering it produces is reflected in dramatic increases in rates of self-harm and suicide by those held in solitary, and even in post-release mortality rates. Evidence also shows that solitary neither deters nor averts prison violence and can increase recidivism.
Since Solitary Watch’s founding in 2009, awareness of solitary confinement has grown exponentially, and the issue has found its place in major advocacy campaigns and on political agendas. But while the landscape around the issue has shifted dramatically, the pace of real change remains slow. At least 60,000 people remain in isolation in state and federal prisons alone, along with many more in local jails and immigration and juvenile facilities. Continued change will depend in large part on growing pressure from an engaged public, and on effective actions by well-informed advocates. Solitary Watch is uniquely positioned to provide the tools—vital information, compelling narratives, and experienced analysis—that will help make these things possible.