Leslie Walker, the executive director of Prisoners' Legal Services, and José Bou, who served 10 years in prison before becoming a youth outreach worker, talked with Emily Rooney on Greater Boston about some of the problems associated with solitary confinement.
Massachusetts allows the Department of Corrections to put a prisoner in solitary confinement for up to 10 years for disciplinary infractions.
Prisoners tend to end up in solitary confinement for fighting. Once there, they remain alone in their cell for 23 hours a day, with usually just a pen and pad of paper to stimulate them.
José Bou spent two years in solitary confinement at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, in Shirley, Mass.
"The anxiety that is created is almost like a rubber band that is being stretched," Bou said. "When the door's opened, it gets flung out the door."
Massachusetts State Senator James Eldridge has proposed a bill that would stop corrections officers from disciplining inmates with long periods of isolation and give inmates better access to their belongings and mental health examinations. Walker supports the bill because she said it would lower costs, prevent prisoners from developing mental health issues, and help them return to normalcy before being released.
"Who do you want sitting next to you on the bus: somebody who was just released from one of these seg [sic] units?" Walker said, adding that state prisons release someone from solitary confinement into the outside world every day, or at least every week.