Is Indefinite Solitary Confinement Torture? (Video)

Incarcerated peoples in the State of California protest the use of indefinite and long-term  solitary confinement.

I realize that a society incarcerates people for a reason, they have more than likely harmed society in some way but taking a critical look at our prison system is well past due. Sitawa Natambu Jamaa has been in solitary confinement, been locked in a single cell for 22-24 hours a day, for the better part of three decades. His own sister admits that she has not been allowed to have psychical contact with her brother since the mid-1980s. Human begins are inherently social creatures, and research suggests that even a minimal time in solitary confinement can have devastating psychological consequences, while the effects of long-term confinement have been deemed a form of torture by Amnesty International.

Now, Natambu Jamaa, along with many others, is fighting back the only way they he can, through a hunger strike. But they are asking for support from the “outside”—you can check out and support their protest here.




About Ross Steinborn

Ross recently graduated from Harvard Divinity School, where he studied Christian theology and gender studies, with a focus on masculinity studies. From central IL, he now lives with his partner in South Boston.


  1. Sitawa Natambu Jamaa – Why is he in solitary confinement? What did he do? What was his crime?
    How is his behavior in jail? In general most prisoners are not in solitary confinement.

    However jail sentences are unusually long in USA and nowhere else are more people in prison than in the United States.

    It is plainly wrong to lock up a person in a narrow jail cell for over 30 years up to 24 hours a day.

    The entire US-justice system needs a rethinking, new laws.

    • Ross Steinborn says:

      The Video hints at this but I could have explained it better. Sitawa Natambu Jamaa is in a SHU, or Security Housing Unit, which the Amnesty international report explains:

      “Under California regulations, the SHU is intended for prisoners whose conduct endangers the safety of others or the security of the institution. Around a third of the current population are serving fixed SHU terms of SHU confinement (ranging from a few months to several years) after being found guilty through the internal disciplinary system of specific offences while in custody. However, more than 2,000 prisoners are serving “indeterminate” (indefinite) SHU terms because they have been “validated” by the prison authorities as members or associates of prison gangs.”

      Sitawa Natambu Jamaa is in the second category, deemed dangerous because of gang affiliation from 1980s an placed in solitary indifferently.

      Also, I’m glad you brought up the U.S. incarceration rates– though not only do we imprison more people, but also more of a percentage of our population than any other country in the world—which is odd for a place that self describes as “the land of the free.”

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