What Solitary Confinement Does to the Brain

What Solitary Confinement Does to the Brain.

This article is necessary for librarians, educators, cases workers, and officers to read as we discuss the best services for those incarcerated, especially those in solitary confinement (often called segregation).

While at the book club I facilitate inside of a prison, some of the men stated that it was only in segregation did they read certain books, especially book series where you could spend an longer time with a set of characters and an on going plot.

We must prepare those incarcerated for being released with the skills we need. We must also meet the immediate needs of incarcerated patrons. As librarians we must provide the best services to our patrons that cannot physically come into the library. Patrons in segregation cannot be the exception.

When prisoners leave solitary confinement and re-enter society — something that often happens with no transition period — their symptoms might abate, but they’re unable to adjust. “I’ve called this the decimation of life skills,” said Kupers. “It destroys one’s capacity to relate socially, to work, to play, to hold a job or enjoy life.”…

Explaining why isolation is so damaging is complicated, but can be distilled to basic human needs for social interaction and sensory stimulation, along with a lack of the social reinforcement that prevents everyday concerns from snowballing into pychoses, said Kupers.

Increased Access to the Law Library: 1 of many demands from the 29,000+ CA inmates on hunger strike

While solitary confinement is the focus of California’s hunger strike by inmates, access to the law library is among other demands:

law library demands

The list of demands can be seen on the LA Times website here. Read about the hunger strike in the LA Times’ article 29,000 California Prison Inmates Refuse Meals in 2nd Day of Protest.

Youth imprisoned at Green Hill prison are joining the hunger strike with their own demands. You can view their full list of demands here. Below are a few library specific demands:

3. EDUCATION: Provide relevant and specialized educational programs to all residents even after they have graduated from High School. These could include cosmetology, music/multimedia production, library access, law training, culinary arts, and more. There are plenty of rooms that are currently not being used for anything but storage. They should be used.

4. LEGAL ACCESS: Access to updated legal material, updated each year. This should include: A well-stocked law library in the school available to all, updated regularly. Books and resources available at anytime. Access to internet sites with relevant legal material available at all times. Access to resources detailing available legal counsel. Copies of JRA/DOC employee policy handbooks in every single wing for residents to read. These must be updated each year.

10. FREEDOM OF SPEECH: The 1st amendment must be respected in JRA/DOC facilities. We have a right to speak our mind and express ourselves with whatever language we choose as long it does not threaten others. We must also be free to organize without punishment.

If you are interested in following the hunger strike, here are two specific blogs to the strike:




ALA Annual 2013: Sessions of Interest for Prison Librarians

I am so excited for ALA’s Annual Conference this week! Here are my top sessions to visit to improve my skills as a prison librarian. Following my top choice are other sessions that our profession can learn from.

Connecting Multilingual Patrons with Legal Information: Key Resources

Presenters: Mirenda Watkins, LawHelp Interactive Program Coordinator, ProBono Net & Stacie Colston Patterson, Outreach Coordinator/Attorney at Law, Illinois Legal Aid Online
Date: Saturday, June 29, 2013
Time: 8:30 – 10:00 AM

Location: Palmer House Hilton, Spire Parlor

This workshop focuses on Spanish-language resources for librarians assisting low income and vulnerable patrons facing legal issues. We will highlight:

-LawHelpEspanol.org- a national gateway to websites providing free legal information
-LawHelpInteractive.org- a gateway to pro-se forms assisting self-represented patrons
-CitizenshipWorks.org- a website and companion app assisting individuals understand the naturalization process
-ImmigrationLawHelp.org- a website assisting low-income immigrants find legal help
-Collaborative models between libraries/civil legal services providing Spanish-language legal information/referrals.

-Participants will be able to identify available multilingual sources of legal information to assist patrons facing legal challenges.
-Participants will be able to identify available multilingual sources of legal referral information to assist patrons facing legal challenges.
-Participants will be able to identify key stakeholders and steps in creating their own civil legal services/library partnership.
-Participants will be able to identify additional online legal resources to augment their current collection.
-Participants will be able to access additional online materials concerning Librarians and the Access to Justice Movement.

Library Services for Youth in Custody
Date:  Sunday, June 30, 2013
Time: 3:00 – 4:00 PM
Location: McCormick Place Convention Center

Meeting & Social Gathering for anyone interested in library services to juvenile correctional or detention facilities. This time is for networking, problem-solving, skill-sharing, and general happy-making! You do not need to be a member of Library Services for Youth in Custody, but we would love it if you want to join.

Diversity and Outreach Fair
Date: Saturday, June 29, 2013
Time: 3:00 – 5:30 PM
Location:  McCormick Place Convention Center – Hall A1, Special Events Area

The Fair highlights library services to underserved or underrepresented communities, including people with disabilities; poor and homeless populations; people of color; English-language learners; gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people; new Americans, new and non-readers; older adults; people living in rural areas; incarcerated people and ex-offenders; and mobile library services and bookmobiles. The theme of the 2013 Diversity and Outreach Fair is Removing Barriers to Service for All: Creating Meaningful and Integrated Library Experiences for People with Disabilities. One poster that will include on libraries behind bars is Mix IT Up!

Other sessions that may be of interest to the profession are:

Shakespeare in Prisons Conference, Nov. 15-16, 2013

Razor Wire Women

Shakespeare at Notre Dame is pleased to announce the Shakespeare in Prisons Conference hosted by the University of Notre Dame on Friday, November 15, and Saturday, November 16, 2013.

Featuring keynote addresses and film screenings by Curt Tofteland (founding director of Shakespeare Behind Bars) and Tom Magill (founder of the Educational Shakespeare Center and director of the Irish film Mickey B ), the conference aims to bring together artists and educators engaged in transformational arts programs using Shakespeare in prisons across the USA (and the world) for an exploration and study of the effects such programming has on prison populations. The goal is to promote a collaborative learning forum where participants will be exposed to a diverse array of programs that all strive for a common result: the habilitation of the inmate’s mind, heart, body, and spirit.

Departing from the traditional academic conference structure, the Shakespeare in Prisons conference will focus on the craft and experiences of the…

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