Solitary confinement abuses in SA and the USA

Illustration: Untitled by Martin Vargas

Illustration: Untitled by Martin Vargas

Wits Justice Project senior journalist Ruth Hopkins recently revealed that inmates were held in solitary confinement at Mangaung Prison, a privately-run prison in the Free State. She described how one man was kept in isolation from November 2006 to November 2009 and how this affected his mental health. Read ‘G4S accused of holding South African prisoners in isolation illegally’ , published in The Guardian (UK) and ‘Prison isolates inmates’, published in City Press.

Nicholas Berger, the head of the EU office of Amnesty International, has recently written about three Americans held in solitary confinement for an extended period of time in the USA’s infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola. According to Berger, the Angola 3 were placed in solitary confinement 41 years ago. Berger says Robert King was released in 2001 after spending 29 years in solitary confinement, but Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace are still being held in isolation. Woodfox and Wallace claim they are innocent in the murder of a prison guard in the early 1970s.  Read more.

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post reports that an investigation by the US Justice Department has concluded that a prison in western Pennsylvania kept inmates with serious mental illness in solitary confinement for months and even years. The State Correctional Institution at Cresson violated the constitutional rights of inmates with mental illness and intellectual disabilities by keeping them in their cells 22 to 23 hours a day. Read more.

Related resources

Amnesty USA’s page about the ‘Angola 3’

Lifetime Lockdown (a report  by the American Friends Service Committee on how solitary confinement affects re-entry and recidivism rates)


About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

One Response to Solitary confinement abuses in SA and the USA

  1. G O says:

    Those involved in the system of correction should be adequately trained and groomed. Also their work should be properly and constantly monitored from time to time. This can be done by creating a master list of those in solitary confinement and setting up an independent body to check into their physical and mental well from period to period. Being in solitary confinement does not confirm the individual is hopeless. It is just suggesting a correction is going on.
    Such an independent body should constitute of doctors, lawyers, religious leaders, a family member of the said individual in confinement as demanded by the person and others as deemed necessary.
    Remember to check on this textbook by typing on google search engine. “wishfortheworld justice and wishfortheworld” where a little mentioning is made of prisoners.

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