A Mother Who Just Wanted to Know When Her Son Would Eat

I'm happy to announce that my latest piece on Waging NonViolence focuses on the organizing of family members of people who have spent years, if not decades, in California's Security Housing Units (aka extreme isolation or solitary confinement).

The temperature in Corona, Calif., can soar above 100 degrees in the summer, sometimes climbing as high as 110. For Dolores Canales and others locked into their cells 22 hours a day in the Administrative Segregation Unit at the California Institution for Women, the extreme heat was aggravated by the extreme lack of privacy.

“The cells get extremely hot in the summer, so you have to take your clothes off [to stay cool],” she recounted.

But the unit was circular, and the guard stationed in the center was able to see into any cell with the turn of his head. “You can’t cover the window on the door, so you’re always exposed to the guards, who are mostly men.”

Canales spent nine months in segregation at the California Institute for Women in 1999. “There, I had a window. The guards would take me out to the yard every day. I’d get to go out to the yard with other people,” she told me in 2013, while I was working on an article for The Nation.

Still, being in isolation took its toll. “There’s an anxiety that overcomes you in the middle of the night because you’re so locked in.”

Canales was unable to shake that anxiety even after leaving segregation and reentering the general prison population until she was released in 2000. She recalled breaking into a sweat and panicking any time she saw a group of officers even though she had broken no rules.

“I just can’t forget,” she said.

With her dark brown hair pulled into a ponytail, one can see the emotions that play across Canales’ face when she talks about solitary confinement — especially since her son Johnny is now living through a similar experience.

Read the entire story here: http://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/mother-just-wanted-know-son-eat/