Terry A. Kupers discusses Solitary: The Inside Story of Supermax Isolation
Thursday, September 14, 7:30pm
PEGASUS BOOKS DOWNTOWN
Dr. Terry A. Kupers examines the history of solitary confinement, the real experiences of people consigned to long-term isolation, the immense damage done to prisoners, especially prisoners suffering from serious mental illness, and the racial and gender discrimination reflected in the love affair with supermax prisons.
About the Book:
In the U.S.A., there are approximately 100,000 inmates held in supermax prisons and isolation units in other prisons and jails, confined to 8’ x 10’ windowless holes for 23-24 hours a day, sometimes for decades. Terry A. Kupers, one of the world’s leading experts on the effects of solitary confinement, takes us inside the cells and minds of some of the thousand inmates he’s interviewed while investigating prison conditions over the last 40 years. From prisoners ignored by staff for urgent medical and psychiatric needs to “cell extractions” where officers in riot gear spray a prisoner with immobilizing gas to subdue him, Kupers has seen the gamut of violence that inmates encounter daily. With an empathetic yet realistic voice, Kupers sheds light on the social purposes for disappearing disadvantaged people while providing constructive rehabilitative alternatives to solitary confinement.
According to Dr. Kupers: “When I testify in court, I am often asked: ‘What is the damage of long term solitary confinement?’ Many prisoners with serious mental illness emerge from prison after years in solitary with much worse disability, and even stable individuals emerge with very serious psychiatric symptoms. The damage from isolation is dreadfully real.”
This book examines the history of solitary confinement, the real experiences of people consigned to long-term isolation, the immense damage done to prisoners, especially prisoners suffering from serious mental illness, and the racial and gender discrimination reflected in the love affair with supermax prisons. Since a large proportion of prisoners suffer from serious mental illness, and a large proportion of individuals in the community suffering from serious mental illness spend time behind bars and too often in solitary confinement, the topic is very timely in psychiatry. The book also presents an alternative strategy for corrections centered on quality mental health treatment and a rehabilitative attitude to replace the culture of punishment.
“In Solitary, Kupers exposes the devastating consequences of solitary confinement and offers a valuable analysis of the racism and criminalization of mental illness that undergird it. An exceptionally well-researched account and a compelling call to action. “ — Angela Y. Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz
“I had the good fortune to meet with Dr. Kupers shortly after my release from 31 years in prison, 29 of them in solitary confinement at Louisiana State Prison in Angola. Solitary accurately captures the moral depravity of this particular form of incarceration. Thanks to work like that of Dr. Kupers, it is possible that we may see an end to this brand of torture.”—Robert Hillary King, member of the Angola 3
"This is one of those practices that many of us are now saying: What were we possibly thinking? Terry Kupers opens a door for the reader that had previously been closed 23 hours a day, seven days a week.”—Rick Raemisch, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Corrections
“Solitary is an impassioned, informed, down-to-earth, and highly readable account of all Kupers has learned over the years, full of real stories of people in solitary, insights of other experts, and concrete ideas for how prison officials, advocates, and mental health professionals can work together to end this human rights crisis.”—James Ridgeway, investigative journalist, director of Solitary Watch, and co-editor of Hell Is a Very Small Place