Letters & Photos

The following letters and poems were written by 13 prisoners in extreme isolation. Identifying information, including their names, have been redacted to protect their identities. Their writings provide unique and wrenching insight into the agony of life inside the Box.

  1. Chris

    Chris is currently serving a 1 year sentence in the Upstate SHU for testing positive for marijuana during a urinalysis test. This sentence was his seventh to the SHU. All of his prior sentences to the SHU were for non-violent misconduct, the majority for drug-related infractions.
    Read Letter

  2. Billy

    Billy has been in extreme isolation for 25 years under “administrative segregation.” Administrative segregation confines prisoners to isolation for an indeterminate period of time; ad seg prisoners are placed in isolation because DOCCS has determined that they pose a general safety or security threat, not for violating prison regulations.
    Read Poem

  3. Adrian

    Adrian will be released directly to the street in September 2015, after spending nearly four-and-a-half years in extreme isolation in Southport Correctional Facility. Click to view the newspaper photo that decorated Adrian’s cell wall; to remind him of his dream to work in an office one day. Adrian says, “I have the ambition, but no preparation,” because he cannot access educational programs and vocational training in extreme isolation.
    Read Letter

  4. Tevin

    Tevin will return directly home from Southport Correctional Facility in July 2014, after spending more than three years in extreme isolation. Tevin’s original isolation sentence was nine months, but he has received additional time for misconduct. Tevin discusses one of those infractions in his letter: After refusing to return his soup cup, he was fed the “loaf” for seven days and received an additional month in extreme isolation.
    Read Letter

  5. Daniel

    Daniel has spent more than two decades cycling in and out of extreme isolation. He has a long history of self-harming behavior, which technically constitutes a violation of prison rules. Daniel has received 15 misbehavior reports for engaging in self-mutilation. While most of these reports resulted in reprimands, the most recent resulted in a four-month sentence in isolation.
    Read Letter

  6. Marcus

    Marcus was sent to isolation in the Upstate Correctional Facility for four months for committing a series of minor, non-violent misbehavior while housed in a medium-security correctional facility. Those infractions included tattooing himself, smoking in the bathroom, failing to report for work duty and visiting another prisoner’s dormitory without permission.

    Read Letter

  7. Na’im

    Na’im was serving his fourth bid in extreme isolation at Southport Correctional Facility when he wrote this letter. His third bid to Southport was for an “unauthorized exchange,” which he describes in his letter. Na’im’s decision to forego recreation meant that he did not leave his 6′ x 10′ cell, except to shower twice a week, for the full year of his isolation sentence.

    Read Letter

  8. Stephan

    Stephan received six months in isolation at Southport Correctional Facility after a fistfight in the recreation yard of another facility, where he was in the general prison population. He has received an additional 16 months in isolation while at Southport, all for non-violent misbehavior. His most recent misbehavior report was for testing positive for marijuana, which added seven months to Stephan’s isolation time.

    Read Misbehavior Report

  9. Justin

    Justin has been in extreme isolation at the Southport Correctional Facility since April 2011. Several months after he arrived at Southport, he attempted suicide and spent 30 days under observation at another facility. He was then transferred back to isolation at Southport.

    Read Letter

  10. Samuel

    Prior to his arrival at Upstate, Samuel had not received a misbehavior report for nearly eight years. Since he was sent to extreme isolation at Upstate Correctional Facility in January 2008, he has accumulated an additional two-and-a-half years of isolation time – all for non-violent misbehavior. For example, he received an additional six-month isolation sentence after refusing to return his food tray to a corrections officer.

    Read Misbehavior Report

  11. Donell

    Donell, who turned 21 in May 2012, will return home in December 2014. He tries to pass his time in extreme isolation in Upstate Correctional Facility by reading self-help books and working out. The worst part of being in isolation, he says, is “not being able to complete programs” and being unable to communicate with his mother and sister.

    Read Letter

  12. Daryl

    Daryl kept close records documenting his regular pleas for mental health treatment while in extreme isolation at Upstate Correctional Facility. Those pleas went unanswered for nine months, at which point Daryl attempted to take his life.

    Read Records

  13. Diaz

    On May 21, 2012, Daniel and Samuel both wrote to inform the NYCLU that a prisoner in extreme isolation in Upstate Correctional Facility had committed suicide that morning. Both men reported that the prisoner was Latino and spoke limited English. The identity of the deceased prisoner was later provided by the wife of a prisoner at Upstate; her husband was housed next to Mr. Diaz’s cell at the time of his suicide. Shortly after Mr. Diaz’s death, the DOCCS “Inmate Lookup” database reported Mr. Diaz as “05/21/12 deceased.”

    Read Letter from Daniel

    Read Letter from Samuel

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