Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement

Edited by Jean Casella, James Ridgeway, and Sarah Shourd. New Press, $25.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-62097-137-6
In this grim, no-holds-barred exposé, 21 essays and academic papers critique the use of solitary confinement in prison, looking at the ruinous effects on those forced to endure it for weeks, months, years, or even decades at a time. Casella and Ridgeway are no strangers to this topic: they’re the cofounders of Solitary Watch, a watchdog group formed to investigate the practice. Shourd, a journalist who spent 410 days as a political hostage in Iran from 2009 to 2010, brings firsthand knowledge. Selections written by former and current inmates assemble a litany of horror and shocking treatment, backing the argument that no one deserves this level of punishment, regardless of the crimes committed. “Solitary confinement for the length of time that I have endured it... is torture of a terrible kind,” states William Blake, who has been held in solitary for more than 20 years after murdering a deputy and wounding another in an escape attempt from a courtroom, in his essay “A Sentence Worse than Death.” While it’s obvious that the editors are pursuing an agenda and the contributors likewise have an undeniable bias, these stories pack a visceral punch and make a convincing case for more humane conditions, better oversight, and continuing prison reform. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 10/26/2015
Release date: 02/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-1-62097-351-6
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