From Albert Woodfox to Kalief Browder: The Devastation of Solitary ConfinementJuly 2, 2015
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has specifically condemned Woodfox’s treatment as torture and called on the United States to eliminate the use of prolonged isolation. Albert’s case has returned to the spotlight in the past month because he is no longer a convicted man – a federal judge ordered his unconditional release in early June, two years after his conviction had been overturned for a third time (a last-minute appeal kept him behind bars).
The ruling on Albert’s behalf came only two days after the devastating news that 22-year-old Kalief Browder killed himself. Browder wasn’t guilty of a crime – in fact, he was never even convicted. A judge eventually dismissed his case, but only after he had spent two years in solitary confinement for fighting with other inmates inside the notoriously brutal prison.
Their stories further illuminate the need for urgent and long-overdue reform of the United States’ use of prolonged solitary confinement.
Albert and Kalief’s ordeals are particularly devastating because of their strong arguments of innocence and the glaring flaws their cases expose in the criminal justice system. But solitary confinement is an grave human rights abuse for guilty and innocent alike. No human being should face the prospect of years, or decades, in a cage without meaningful human contact, battling the very real prospect of being overtaken by insanity.