Incarcerated Women Are Punished for Their Trauma With Solitary Confinement
Date:  12-13-2020

Too often women are thrown into solitary confinement for mental health issues
From Truthout:

At Minnesota’s Shakopee Correctional Facility for women, where I am incarcerated, solitude is something we seldom have a chance to experience. Loud, muffled over-head announcements begin every morning at 5:30 and continue until 9:30 p.m. when we are counted for the last time of the day. There is little privacy; everyone can hear each other’s business when we talk on the phone.

Every aspect of our life is micromanaged, from when our blinds have to be raised and lowered, and how many books we can put on a shelf in our room, to the date we have to wear our winter coats regardless of the outside temperature. Prison is manila-walled, grey-clothed and full of blue plastic chairs. Any prisoner could tell you what’s for breakfast on a Wednesday or what’s on TV on a Monday night because our lives are a study in monotony. All of us are called “Offender” all day long.

By its very nature, prison is isolating. Stripped of our personal physical identifiers — wedding rings, contact lenses, clothing and makeup, we are away from our homes, family, pets, employment, favorite activities, foods, computers and green spaces. Our lives are condensed. To survive, we cling to what comforts us — small rituals that give us a sense of normalcy and help us retain our dignity. For some, this means going to the gym or walking outside in the courtyard. For others it means calling their mom or child every morning. Some people eat a lot, some church a lot, some read a lot, some play cards with their friends every day. The communities built in prison, as unlikely as they appear, are vital. Whether we have one good friend or a larger group of friends, our community relationships help us navigate and stay balanced while we are here. This balance is upended when we are taken to solitary confinement, or as most people in prison call it, segregation.

In Shakopee, the segregation unit is separate from the other living units. There are 33 segregation beds in 33 cells. Each cell is 10 by 12 feet and contains a narrow bed with a thin foam pad, two blankets and a pillow covered with a water-resistant material. Bolted to the wall is a metal sink with buttons to push for water and a metal toilet. There is a light switch, an outside-looking window, and a “mirror” made of a reflective metal. The door to the cell is wood and has a narrow 4-by-20-inch window and slit to push through a tray of food, change of clothes, or medicine. The mail is slid under the door. There is a small desk and a stool attached to the wall. Some cells have a camera in them, or a camera pointed at them.

The most common response when asked about segregation conditions was that it was cold.

I see people taken to segregation nearly every day — often several times a day. Continue reading >>>