I spent more than a decade in solitary confinement. Trust me it’s torture

Solitary confinement is torture. I know this because I have spent more than a decade of my life in isolation. My first experience of solitary confinement was at the age of 16 at the California Youth Authority. I was sent there because I was caught with drugs. I needed addiction treatment and counseling.

Instead, I was housed in isolation.

Once a week I got a novel, five sheets of paper and a pencil. While we were in our cells it was forbidden to speak to my neighbors. My only human contact was during an hour of movement in the yard.

The loneliness was overwhelming and unbearable. Our cells were designed to deprive us of any sensory experience, as the windows are covered by a painted, dense metal grille. But the worst was the lack of human contact. I was often so desperate to break that silence that I would ask myself questions and answer them out loud, as if I were interviewing myself. I would also enumerate every memory I could think of since birth, just to keep my mind active. Sometimes I just sat there and cried.

Later, when I was transferred to solitary confinement at the infamous Pelican Bay Prison, I forgot what human touch felt like. I was so desperate for contact – a handshake, a hug – that I would pet myself. When human touch finally came, it took the form of handcuffs being placed on my wrists and guards’ hands squeezing my neck.

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