The Harms of Solitary Confinement During Covid

Medical Isolation Has Become the Latest Form of Abuse in America's Prisons

It spread through our living unit in a matter of weeks. We were sick, and most of us knew it was probably COVID. A staff member that worked in the prison’s Correctional Industries Laundry Service had tested positive and been placed on leave. Prisoners knew they were sick, but no one wanted to report the symptoms because we all knew what came with that—an unwanted and unhelpful trip to solitary-confinement-like conditions. A cell stripped down to nothing but the small box of property you were allowed to bring as you scrambled to prepare for a trip into a concrete box. Each time COVID has entered the prison, the majority of prisoners inside have contracted the virus, so why add a trip to isolation if it doesn’t help to curb the spread? This is the question many prisoners continue to ask.

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Christopher Blackwell is serving a 45-year prison sentence in Washington State. He co-founded Look 2 Justice, an organization that provides civic education to system-impacted communities and actively works to pass sentence and policy reform legislation. He is currently working towards publishing a book on solitary confinement. His writing has been published by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Huff Post, and many other outlets. He is a contributing writer at Jewish Currents and works closely with the prison writing program Empowerment Avenue. You can follow him and be in touch on Twitter @chriswblackwell

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