Via Solitary Watch – Paul Rogers has spent more than 4,300 consecutive days – over 12 years – locked behind a solid steel door in the bowels of a Pennsylvania prison. He spends twenty-four hours a day in isolation, occasionally punctuated by an hour in another cage for “recreation” purposes, or a trip to the shower. Inside a concrete and steel tomb that is his bathroom, bedroom, and workspace, Rogers eats, sleeps, dreams, defecates, reads, writes, and contemplates the prospect of spending the remainder of his life sentence in solitary confinement. According to Rogers, “It’s like mental torture and you slowly lose your mind.”
Rogers has once again been approved for release into the general population by the Superintendent of the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Smithfield. For most prisoners in the hole this would be sufficient for securing their release, but Paul is on the Restricted Release List (RRL), an indefinite, secretive and potentially permanent form of solitary confinement that can only be authorized with the approval of PA DOC Central Office. The final decision on Paul’s stauts rests with Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ (PA DOC) Secretary John Wetzel.
Contrary to the claim that solitary is reserved for the “worst of the worst,” Rogers has had an exemplary disciplinary record these twelve years, not once receiving a misconduct for a serious infraction. Despite making his best effort “to conform to DOC standards,” he was again rejected for release from the RRL during his February 2012 review, although he was provided “no specific reason” as to why he had to remain in solitary. “I have complied to a work plan, have no misconducts, and still wasn’t recommended for release off the RRL. I have been arbitrarily denied release off the RRL without being given a written reason or opportunity to defend myself.”
Echoing the symptoms reported by others subjected to the infamous “no-touch” torture of isolation, Rogers has experienced depression, heightened anxiety, difficulty concentrating, deterioration of social skills, and a an all too real fear of losing his sanity. As is customary in the PA DOC, mental health care is utterly lacking for those languishing in the Restricted Housing Units (RHUs). In correspondence to the Human Rights Coalition, Rogers wrote:
“I don’t think my mental health is a concern of the DOC, and I have been trying self-help remedies to maintain my mental care. The health department visit me every 90 days at my cell door for less than a few minutes, and from past experience they don’t offer any assistance other than medication, which seems to make prisoners worse and psychotic. . . . [W]hen I try to get help for my problems, I was told being the RHU prevents them from offering remedies besides medication…”
Full Story Continues Here on Solitary WatchBret Grote is an investigator with the Human Rights Coalition, a Pennsylvania-based prison abolitionist and prisoner rights organization. Family and supporters of Paul Rogers are asking those with loved ones in prison and other concerned members of the public to write letters and make calls to Secretary Wetzel in support of Rogers’ release from solitary confinement into general population. See the Human Rights Coalition action alert in support of Rogers.