Boxed In: Report on Solitary Confinement in New York prisons

Received via email:

“Boxed In: The True Cost of Extreme Isolation in New York’s Prisons”. 
By by Scarlet Kim, Taylor Pendergrass and Helen Zelon.
NYACLU. October 2012.

The report and other materials can be found at: The website includes the report, letters from prisoners in isolation, a tour of “Malone, NY”, data on who is locked in isolation in NY, conditions of confinement.

From the report

“Every day, nearly 4,500 prisoners across New York live in extreme isolation, deprived of all meaningful human interaction or mental stimulation, confined to the small, barren cells where they spend 23 hours a day. Disembodied hands deliver meals through a slot in the cell door. “Recreation” offers no respite: An hour, alone, in an empty, outdoor pen, no larger than the cell, enclosed by high concrete walls or thick metal grates. No activities, programs or classes break up the day. No phone calls are allowed. Few personal possessions are permitted. These prisoners languish in isolation for days, weeks, months and even years on end.

What occurs inside our prisons may seem remote, but it affects all New Yorkers. It impacts public safety: Of the roughly 56,000 people incarcerated in New York’s prisons, about 25,000 are released and return to our communities each year, bringing their prison experiences home with them.

It reflects how we allocate increasingly scarce public resources: New York spends about $60,000 a prisoner – or $2.7 billion on state prisons – per year.  And it raises essential questions about how we value and protect human dignity.

Each of these concerns is directly implicated by an ongoing phenomenon behind New York’s prison walls – the use of “solitary confinement” as punishment on an unprecedented scale and for extraordinary lengths of time. 

New York employs an unusual brand of “solitary confinement.” Roughly half of the 4,500 prisoners in “solitary confinement” spend 23 hours a day locked down alone in an isolation cell. The other half are locked down in an isolation cell with another prisoner – a practice known as “double-celling,” which forces two strangers into intimate, 
constant proximity.”  

Read the report:

Correspondence from prisoners in extreme isolation is available online at

Documents obtained by the NYCLU from DOCCS and OMH are available online at

For the complete list of New York’s prison rules,  “Standards of Inmate Behavior,” go to