The U.S. holds more prisoners in solitary confinement than any other democratic country, according to critics of the treatment. Here, an immigrant detainee makes a call from his "segregation cell" at a detention facility in Adelanto, Calif., last November.
Former prisoners spoke about the effects of solitary confinement Tuesday, in a congressional hearing aimed at banning the treatment for some inmates. The federal push to reduce solitary confinement is being led by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who calls it "a human rights issue we can't ignore."
Inmates who are held in solitary confinement spend 23 hours a day in small windowless cells, receiving their food on trays that are pushed through a slot in the cell's door.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
Some members of Congress are calling for a more humane prison system. They're proposing a ban on solitary confinement for certain prisoners - among them, juveniles, pregnant women, and the mentally ill. Here's Illinois Democratic Senator Richard Durbin at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today.
A few years ago, Missouri, like other states, was having trouble finding lethal execution drugs. Europe was balking, and U.S. drug manufacturers didn't want a part of it.
So Missouri turned to a place called a compounding pharmacy to make up the needed drugs based on the ingredients. Missouri officials sent an employee to a place called The Apothecary Shoppe in Oklahoma, with thousands of dollars in cash.
Last week, George Lombardi, director of Missouri's Department of Corrections, explained to lawmakers why his employees had to go to such lengths.
The Texas teen who was legally intoxicated last June when he caused a crash that killed four people and seriously wounded two others, was in a Fort Worth court Wednesday. Note: NPR avoids identifying minors who are prosecuted as juveniles or are victims of crimes. Other news outlets have reported his name, however.
David Ranta speaks with reporters after being freed by a judge in March 2013. Ranta spent more than two decades in prison before a reinvestigation of his case cast serious doubt on evidence used to convict him in the shooting of a Brooklyn rabbi.
2013 was a record-breaking year for exonerations in the United States, according to statistics compiled by the National Registry of Exonerations.
At least 87 people were set free for crimes they did not commit last year, the highest number since researchers began keeping track more than 20 years ago. Some of those people spent decades in prison before release.
Mentally ill inmates who are able to shower, eat, sit quietly and otherwise care for themselves live in the jail's Division 2. A psychologist is stationed right outside the room, and officers are specially trained to deal with psychotic episodes.
Credit Laura Sullivan / NPR
Elli Petacque Montgomery with the Cook County Sheriff's Office assesses a new inmate for mental illness.
Credit Laura Sullivan / NPR
Cook County Jail inmates head off to bond court after being screened for mental illness. If they then don't get released, the jail will separate the mentally ill from the other inmates.
Cook County, Ill., Sheriff Tom Dart walks the halls of his jail every day. With 10,000 inmates, this place is a small city — except a third of the people here are mentally ill.
Dart has created some of the most innovative programs in the country to handle mentally ill inmates, hiring doctors and psychologists, and training staff. But if you ask anyone here, even this jail is barely managing.
"I can't conceive of anything more ridiculously stupid by government than to do what we're doing right now," Dart says.