You’re Just Not: Solitary Confinement Is Torture, In Iran and Pelican Bay

Shane Bauer, one of three U.S. hikers imprisoned on vague espionage charges in Iran, visitsCalifornia’s infamous Pelican Bay State Prison for an in-depth, horrifying look at solitary confinement in its Security Housing Unit (SHU), where inmates land when charged with gang affiliation for “offenses” like possessing Christmas cards with stars, drawings of dragons, and left-wing or prisoners’ rights reading matter. Bauer‘s four months in solitary were the worst part of his experience – so much so, “I needed human contact so badly that I woke every morning hoping to be interrogated.” The U.N. defines more than 15 minutes in solitary as torture and cruel or unusual punishment; 89 inmates have been in the SHU for over 20 years. From Mother Jones.

Bauer on the difference between his Iran cell and Pelican Bay’s SHU: “There was a window…Without those windows, I wouldn’t have had the sound of ravens, the rare breezes, or the drops of rain that I let wash over my face some nights. My world would have been utterly restricted to my concrete box, to watching the miniature ocean waves I made by sloshing water back and forth in a bottle; to marveling at ants; to calculating the mean, median, and mode of the tick marks on the wall; to talking to myself without realizing it. For hours, days, I fixated on the patch of sunlight cast against my wall through those barred and grated windows. When, after five weeks, my knees buckled and I fell to the ground utterly broken, sobbing and rocking to the beat of my heart, it was the patch of sunlight that brought me back. Its slow creeping against the wall reminded me that the world did in fact turn and that time was something other than the stagnant pool my life was draining into.”

NATO protestor Mark Neiweem, aka Migs, Brutalized by Cook County Prison Guards – Pressure Sheriff Tom Dart

Mark Nieweem, (pronounced Nye-wame) one of the NATO5, was badly beaten by Cook County Jail Guards and placed in solitary confinement, “the hole,” for 20+ days. His lawyer confirmed that Mark spent the night in Cermak Hospital. he has stitches, his face is swollen and bruised. his ribs are sore but not broken. We, his activists and friends, cannot let this atrocity of state abuse stand.

We are calling on every person around the world to telephone Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart at (312) 603-6444 and ask to speak with him, demanding:

What happened to Mark Neiweem?
Why was Mark Neiweem beaten so severely that he was admitted to Cermak hospital overnight?
Remove Mark from the hole now!

By calling Tom Dart and demanding answers, we are holding him and his department accountable for the abhorrent treatment of Mark. Using the force of our network, we are showing him that his guard dog attacks will not be tolerated.

We won’t sit down.
We won’t shut up.
We won’t forget about our comrade.
We will stand and speak for Mark. We will fight for him.
Call every day until Mark’s released from the hole or until September 18.

Invite friends. Share widely. Repost. Retweet.

For more information on the NATO5 case, see

Website post:

FB event link:

Call-in Day Against I-Con on Monday 8/20

A call-in day has been announced for Monday, August 20 in support of all prisoners who are suffering the inhumane form of punishment known as I-Con (Intensive Control) or solitary, and in particular the Strong 8 prisoners who are still in solitary.

Here’s a note from one of the Strong 8:
“I went to the DCA board today, and all of us were given six more months of ICON! I can’t believe it! I haven’t received any infractions, or caused any trouble. I haven’t given no reason to be kept on I-Con. The FCC board recommended us to be released to regular population, but the warden over-ruled the recommendation and told the DCA board to keep us on ICON as an example. I have never seen such gross disregard of policy, and such blatant abuse of power. It’s ridiculous. As you know, all support, and acts of solidarity are truly appreciated. You and everyone else involved are truly a blessing.”

Sample script for calling Warden Lassiter (you can also modify for the director of prisons):

Warden Lassiter,

I am calling in regards to your facility’s use of solitary confinement (ICON status) to further punish politically active prisoners and hunger strikers. Specifically, I find it outrageous and unacceptable that you are using segregation on Unit 1 to politically retaliate against prisoners for their role in a recent hunger strike, as well as against members of the Strong 8 who, with no write ups or infractions, are being kept in solitary despite a recommendation for general population. There is no way to understand this except strictly as a political threat by your administration against other prisoners who would organize themselves.

Your use of solitary confinement betrays the lie that is segregation — the idea that it exists for security or safety is a clear farce. The world is finding out what you are doing at Central, other prisoners are learning about it, and the media is doing stories on it. Your use of sensory deprivation as a tactic of political intimidation disgusts me.

Solidarity with all striking prisoners

Central Prison Warden Ken Lassiter
phone: 919.733.0800
fax: 919.715.2645

Robert C. Lewis, Director of Prisons
phone: 919.838.4000
fax: 919.733.8272

Here’s a link to the post from the last call-in day for the Strong 8 if you want to use language from that.