April 8, 2013
Since the “War on Drugs” was launched in the mid-1980s, accompanied by mandatory-minimum sentences for drug offenders, the U.S. prison population has exploded from under 900,000 to 2.3 million prisoners. With correction budgets consumed by building new prisons and staffing them, rehabilitation programs were slashed. Prisons all over the nation turned – with disastrous results – to the use of solitary confinement as its primary means of control. More than 80,000 inmates are being subjected to long-term solitary confinement in the United States. Not one of them will leave prison undamaged by the experience.
by Shawn R. Griffith
I was 18 years old, sitting in a solitary confinement cell. My confinement was not a result of assaultive behavior, but instead a form of retaliation for refusing to jog. I was in one of the “Boot Camp” prisons so popular in the 1990s. This was a shock-jock program modeled after the Marines’ real boot camps, like the one at Camp Lejeune. Ostensibly, it was designed by corrections officials to make the initial incarceration of youthful offenders so brutal that it would change their ways and divert them from future crime and the institutional lifestyle.
Unfortunately, for political reasons, it was also calculated to advance only the least offensive youths for early release. The others, like me with an armed-burglary charge, were pawns to make the program appear as if it were functioning as it was intended. The most sadistic guards from the State of Florida were brought in, and they pushed the young men who they did not want to complete the program to the brink of death. When I finally refused to jog anymore, actually collapsing of heat stroke, I was taken to medical where they registered a fever of 102.5. I was given ice for my forehead and sent to the dreaded confinement for refusing orders.