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Articles by Greg Rienzi

Thousands of American prisoners spend 23 hours a day in solitary confinement

by Greg Rienzi, John Hopkins Magazine

Gabriel Eber has no shortage of macabre tales of life inside the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, a notoriously violent and chaotic men's prison on the outskirts of Meridian. Assaults (staff on inmate, inmate on inmate) are frequent. According to accounts, cells are infested with rats that crawl over prisoners; some inmates tie leashes to the rodents and sell them to the mentally ill as pets. Men are kept in small, unsanitary isolation cells with scant human attention for months and years. Self-mutilation and suicide attempts are not uncommon.

But words alone, Eber says, can't bring home the facility's gruesome conditions. "I can show you a video of what I'm talking about, and I have some pictures," says Eber, dressed in a loose-fitting dark suit as he sits in his cramped Washington office at the American Civil Liberties Union. He clicks open a file to show footage shot by the private corporation that now manages the prison. Two corrections officers stand outside a cell in one of the EMCF's isolation units. (One such unit is known to inmates as the "dead zone" or "dead man's zone.") The officers are here for an unknown reason, perhaps ...