Begun at Princeton University, Project Solidarity is aimed at mitigating the effects of the unjust social isolation imposed upon individuals in solitary as well as familiarizing students with the phenomenon of solitary and the experiences of the approximately 80,000 US citizens subjected to it every day. Project Solidarity is an initiative of Students for Prison Education And Reform, SPEAR, conducted in partnership with Solitary Watch.
Project Solidarity is a student run letter-writing program where college students can correspond with individuals currently incarcerated in solitary confinement in the United States.
This program is now being brought to New York City students and community members through New York University, Incarcerated Nation and Prison Writes.
Join us tuesday April 18th 6:45-8PM
for an ORIENTATION to CORRESPONDING with a PERSON in SOLITARY
SILVER SCHOOL of SOCIAL WORK, Ehrenkranz Center, 1 Washington Square North, RM 404
Please spread the word -
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 646-662-5430.
Some words about solitary by Dr. Mika'il DeVeaux, founder of Citizens Against Recidivism from his scholarly article, 'The Trauma of the Incarceration Experience'.
"Before being sentenced to time in the Box, I had long heard stories about the beating and murders that took place there at the hands of prison guards. Going to the Box was like going to prison inside of a prison. Dur- ing the early part of my incarceration, threats of the Box had accented the fears I developed of prison. They were not unwarranted. In my experience, Attica’s was the most notorious Box, and thus made a lasting impression on me. I was there when people housed in the Box were beaten, gassed, had their cells tossed in a “search for weapons,” had their clothes taken, and were placed in stripped cells (cells with nothing except a mattress and a blanket, if that). Before coming out of the cell for any reason, a person’s hands had to be extended behind his back, out of the feeding hole, and cuf- fed. Once the doors were opened, feet had to be cuffed with ankle bracelets, particularly if one was leaving the unit. And then there was the noise in the Box — the yelling, the conversation at all hours of the night, the exchange of chess moves from games played in separate cells, and the counting of jumping jacks, push-ups, or sit-ups as men exercised together in separate cells. These efforts were designed to counter the idleness, lack of programs, and dearth of anything to read.
Except for instances in which individuals are placed in administrative segregation for their own protection, all segregation units are used for disci- plinary confinement. The conditions, however, are the same. Disciplinary confinement includes twenty-three- to twenty-four-hour per day lockdown. “Most SHU cells have bars on the front or back of the cell; others are far more isolating, with three concrete walls and a thick metal door.”79 Often, if officers sought to teach someone in the Box a lesson or further punish them for some rule violation or some other pretense, he might be subjected to loss of recreation (thirty to sixty minutes), loss of showers (which were only permitted three times a week), imposition of a restricted diet (usually cab- bage and bread), or just ignored. I was there when individuals in SHUs stored human waste in cups to throw on officers, when officers were spat on, and when officers were assaulted. These tactics were the only ways by which individuals in the SHUs could fight back; they had no other options. Everyone suffered as a result of the stench and their behavior. It was at this time that some cells were enclosed with Plexiglas to limit individuals’ ability to throw things at guards.
The guards did not let these or any other assaults go unanswered. I witnessed the gassing of cells. Guards would spray substances into cells from aerosol cans that made cell inhabitants gasp for air and their skin burn until the cell doors were opened and four to six guards rushed in to drag the person out. These incidents were alarming because while in a cell on the gallery, I could hear the sounds as events were unfolding. And when I could not see, I somehow knew the actions accompanying each sound. These inci- dents were frightening because being “dragged out” meant that a person was dragged out of a cell feet first, with their head trailing behind on the floor, and often being beaten while being moved. I can still remember the screams, the wailing, the cursing, and the anger. These events were alarm- ing because all who witnessed them unfold could feel the humiliation and shame. We in the cells were utterly powerless and could face a similar fate. There was nothing I could do, nothing anyone could do, except hope to get out of there alive. The possibility of being beaten was all too real. Whom could I tell? Who would listen? Who would care?"