[Pnews] Solitary confinement is 'no touch' torture, and it must be abolished | Chelsea E Manning

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue May 3 13:20:39 EDT 2016


  Solitary confinement is 'no touch' torture, and it must be abolished |
  Chelsea E Manning

Chelsea E Manning - May 2, 2016

Shortly after arriving at a makeshift military jail, at Camp Arifjan, 
Kuwait, in May 2010*,* I was placed into the black hole of solitary 
confinement for the first time. Within two weeks, I was contemplating 

After a month on suicide watch, I was transferred back to US, to a tiny 
6 x 8ft (roughly 2 x 2.5 meter) cell in a place that will haunt me for 
the rest of my life: the US Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Virginia. I 
was held there for roughly nine months as a “prevention of injury 
prisoner, a designation the Marine Corps and the Navy used to place me 
in highly restrictive solitary conditions without a psychiatrist’s 

For 17 hours a day, I sat directly in front of at least two Marine Corps 
guards seated behind a one-way mirror. I was not allowed to lay down. I 
was not allowed to lean my back against the cell wall. I was not allowed 
to exercise. Sometimes, to keep from going crazy, I would stand up, walk 
around, or dance, as “dancing” was not considered exercise by the Marine 

To pass the time, I counted the hundreds of holes between the steel bars 
in a grid pattern at the front of my empty cell. My eyes traced the gaps 
between the bricks on the wall. I looked at the rough patterns and 
stains on the concrete floor – including one that looked like a 
caricature grey alien <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_alien>, with 
large black eyes and no mouth, that was popular in the 1990s. I could 
hear the “drip drop drip” of a leaky pipe somewhere down the hall. I 
listened to the faint buzz of the fluorescent lights.

For brief periods, every other day or so, I was escorted by a team of at 
least three guards to an empty basketball court-sized area. There, I was 
shackled and walked around in circles or figure-eights for 20 minutes. I 
was not allowed to stand still, otherwise they would take me back to my 

I was only allowed a couple of hours of visitation each month to see my 
friends, family and lawyers, through a thick glass partition in a tiny 4 
x 6ft room. My hands and feet were shackled the entire time. Federal 
agents installed recording equipment specifically to monitor my 
conversations, except with my lawyers.

The United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, condemned 
my treatment 
as “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”, describing “the excessive 
and prolonged isolation” I was placed under for that period of time. 
However, he didn’t stop there. In a preface to the 2014 Spanish edition 
of the Sourcebook on Solitary Confinement, written by Méndez he strongly 
against any use of solitary confinement beyond 15 days.

As Mendez explains:

    Prolonged solitary confinement raises special concerns, because the
    risk of grave and irreparable harm to the detained person increases
    with the length of isolation and the uncertainty regarding its
    duration. In my public declarations on this theme, I have defined
    prolonged solitary confinement as any period in excess of 15 days.
    This definition reflects the fact that most of the scientific
    literature shows that, after 15 days, certain changes in brain
    functions occur and the harmful psychological effects of isolation
    can become irreversible.

Unfortunately, conditions similar to the ones I experienced in 2010-11 
are hardly unusual for the estimated 
<http://solitarywatch.com/facts/faq/> 80,000 to 100,000 inmates held in 
these conditions across the US every day.

In the time since my confinement at Quantico, public awareness of 
solitary confinement has improved by orders of magnitude. People all 
across the political spectrum – including some who have never been in 
solitary or known anyone who has – are now beginning to question whether 
this practice is a moral and ethical one. In June 2015, US supreme court 
justice Anthony Kennedy called 
the prison system “overlooked” and “misunderstood”, stating that he 
welcomes a case that would allow the court to review whether or not 
solitary confinement is cruel and unusual under the US constitution.

The evidence is overwhelming that it should be deemed as such: solitary 
confinement in the US is arbitrary, abused and unnecessary in many 
situations. It is cruel, degrading and inhumane, and is effectively a 
“no touch” torture. We should end the practice quickly and completely.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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