Surviving Solitary: How Prisoners of Solitary Confinement Talk about Torture

Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type




First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velázquez


Solitary Confinement is used as a form of extended incarceration and punishment, with little to no regulations ensuring the personal safety of an inmate. The absence of regulations that prioritize human health and safety has resulted in the dramatic degradation, oftentimes fatal, of an individual’s physiological and psychological well-being while serving time in Solitary Confinement. A comprehensive literature review revealed a lack of primary sources and personal data from inmates which could illuminate a comprehensive understanding of the true psychological and physiological effects that time in Solitary Confinement has on individuals. In order to facilitate a more comprehensive understanding of the realities surrounding the effects of Solitary Confinement, a detailed study has been conducted. This study focused on primary accounts of those who have been sentenced to time in Solitary Confinement, more specifically those serving time in the California State Prison System. The data has been extracted from the internationally acclaimed podcast Ear Hustle, which is produced and run by the former inmates of California’s San Quentin Prison. The podcast exposed the realities and lived experiences of those who have been sentenced to Solitary Confinement. These accounts have substantiated empirical claims that physiological and psychological health both suffer during and after one’s time in solitary. The data also revealed the destruction of one’s social capabilities after an extended amount of time without human interaction and physical contact. Ear Hustle has provided the platform necessary to expose the reality of the extreme cases of PTSD, social anxiety, and depression that result from an individual's experiences serving time in Solitary Confinement within the California State Prison System.

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