Criminal Justice Reform is an important, and often overlooked element of Racial Justice. In the U.S., Black men are significantly more likely to be incarcerated. Individuals in the criminal justice system are likely to experience inhumane and dehumanizing practices, including solitary confinement. Severe social isolation can have a harmful long-term impact on physical and mental health.
In this eye-opening episode, Debbie speaks with Taylor Pendergrass, an ACLU lawyer dedicated to criminal justice reform and co-editor of Six by Ten: Stories from Solitary. The book includes a collection of the rarely heard personal stories of people who have experienced long-term solitary confinement. In the episode, Taylor and Debbie discuss mental health, incarceration, and why we need to end the dehumanizing practice of long-term solitary confinement in the United States.
Listen and Learn:
- Why solitary confinement is used in the U.S, and why long-term solitary confinement is a problem.
- About “SHU syndrome,” and the long-lasting psychological and physical effects of isolation on humans.
- Why mental health units are a more effective, humane alternative.
- What conditions are like in solitary confinement cells.
- What we can learn from European prison systems.
- How you can help promote criminal justice reform!
About Taylor Pendergrass
Taylor Pendergrass is a lawyer and activist who works on criminal justice reform for the ACLU. He has spent over a decade collecting stories of people who have been impacted by the criminal justice system. Along with Mateo Hoke, Taylor co-edited the book Six by Ten: Stories from Solitary which, through personal history narratives gives readers a better understanding of the horribly dehumanizing impact of solitary confinement on people’s lives. Taylor has a BA in Environmental Policy from Duke University and earned his law degree from the University of Colorado Law School.
- Six by Ten: Stories from Solitary by Taylor Pendergrass and Mateo Hoke
- Debbie’s unabridged interview of Taylor Pendergrass on The New Books Network
- 13th, a documentary directed by Ava DuVernay on Netflix
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
- “I Begged Them to Let Me Die”: How Federal Prisons Became Coronavirus Deathtraps by Keri Blakinger and Keegan Hamilton, The Marshall Project, June 18, 2020
- “Coronavirus Cases Rise Sharply in Prisons Even as They Plateau Nationwide” by Timothy Williams, Libby Seline and Rebecca Griesbach, New York Times, June 16, 2020
- ‘People are Sick All Around Me’: Inside the Coronavirus Catastrophe in California Prisons by Sam Levin, The Guardian, May 20, 2020
- NY Times articles (here and here) about solitary confinement in Colorado by Rick Raemisch
- Pen Pal program with people in solitary confinement
- An overview of research on the psychological impact of solitary confinement by Craig Haney, Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz