Tyrrell Muhammad spent seven years in solitary confinement. You can pause on that number as long as you want, you can think about it as long as you want — but for most of us, it will remain abstract. Our brains cannot expand to imagine what Muhammad was forced to endure, what that level of punishment for that duration would do to a person. In this video directed by Jenny Carchman and from the wonderful people at The Marshall Project, a non-profit that reports on the US justice system, Muhammad, in his own words, gives terrifying insight into life in a US prison.
When he participated in a robbery that resulted in a homicide at the age of 19, he was sentenced to 20 years to life. There is no doubt that crimes require a response, but that does not mean that the conditions and treatment of those being punished should be inhumane. The use of solitary confinement, of racial slurs, of abuse, should not just be taken as a normal or acceptable part of the inmate experience. They are barbaric. Solitary confinement is considered so horrific that in 2011, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment spoke out against it — and many think that solitary confinement is simply a form of torture. To hear Muhammad’s experience, you can watch the video here:
Muhammad may have felt powerless during his time as an inmate, but he now works for the Correctional Association of New York, specifically looking into prisoner complaints related to solitary confinement. The US criminal justice system has spiraled out of control, with abusive behavior and racism being far too common. But we can’t become desensitized to this type of behavior. We are here to bear witness — and to fight back.