The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) of Arizona announces the completion of Buried Alive: Solitary Confinement in Arizona’s Prisons and Jails. In this shocking, 66-page report, the AFSC details the use and conditions of solitary confinement in three different correctional systems: the Arizona Department of Corrections, the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, and Maricopa County’s Fourth Avenue Jail. Many readers may be surprised to learn that Arizona holds convicted men and women in solitary confinement cells the size of bathrooms with no meaningful human contact or access to programming sometimes for years at a time. Even more shocking is the revelation that juveniles and pre-trial detainees in Arizona jails are also held inlong-term isolation. Such stressful confinement has been linked to increasing rates of suicide attempts, serious mental illness, uncontrollable violence and anger, hallucinations, and anti-social behavior. Many persons are released directly from solitary confinement to communities with no transition time or assistance.

According to psychaitrist Terry Kupers, "Excessive use of isolation as punishment in prisons constitutes an entirely foolhardy wrong turn in American penology. It is well known that positive rewards for improved behavior is the way to rehabilitate people, and excessive punishment, including long-term isolation, merely breaks people down. A return to the rehabilitation model offers the only hope of alleviating the shameful over-incarceration of disadvantaged populations in the USA today. The AFSC report on long-term isolated confinement provides crucial background and a reasonable set of remedies for those who would correct what ails corrections today."

Attorney Fred Cohen explains, "A number of important legal decisions have banned or severely restricted the use of extended penal isolation for prisoners with mental illness. I have proposed a similar approach for all inmates in my writings and in my invited testimony to The Commission on Safety & Abuse in Prisons. I argue that the same approach legally taken to using mechanical restraints (e.g., 4 or 5 point restraint, the 'chair') should be taken with extended isolation: used only as last resort, only to prevent 'harm' and only during the precipitating crisis."

In response to these findings, and with great concern for the safety of prisoners, prison officials, and our communities, the AFSC is launching the Stopmax Arizona Campaign in partnership with other AFSC offices and partners throughout the country. Our hope is to raise broad awareness about the dangers of solitary confinement and mobilize communities, people, and organizations to call for an end to the use of solitary confinement in Arizona.

Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections Responds to Buried Alive

The Director of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, Michael Branham, met with AFSC staff in August of 2007 to discuss the findings in our report, Buried Alive. In response to Mr. Branham’s concerns, we are posting the department’s response. Click here to read the letter from the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections in response to our concerns regarding “separation” of juvenile prisoners.

Join the STOPMAX Arizona Campaign!

You can help end the practice of long-term solitary confinement in Arizona. The StopMax Arizona Campaign is seeking the following from organizations and individuals:

  • Formally endorse the Campaign
  • Help with outreach (distribute flyers and emails)
  • Turn out people to events
  • Host/organize an event (press conference, town hall meeting, house party, presentation)
  • Sign on to a letter
  • Go on a delegation
  • Provide volunteers
  • Help with media (write a letter to the editor, make press calls)
  • Raise/donate money
  • Be on the organizing/strategy committee

For more information or to volunteer, please contact Matt Lowen at 520-623-9141 or write to mlowen@afsc.org.