For 13 years, reporter Kevin Johnson and his colleagues at USA Today have tracked nine people who were released from solitary confinement in Texas on the same day in 2002. All vowed never to return. All suffered from a form of “sensory paralysis” that impacted their ability to adapt to life on the outside. And all eventually found their way back to solitary for another stretch. (via The Marshall Project)
Kevin Johnson | USA Today | November 4, 2015
IOWA PARK, Texas — Silvestre Segovia had vowed many times over that he would never return to solitary confinement.
Languishing in the vast Texas prison system’s solitary confinement wings for more than a decade had exacted a heavy emotional toll. And there was so much to discover about a new world that confronted him on a much-anticipated exit that chilly morning, Nov. 15, 2002. A loyal girlfriend waited 255 miles away. There might even be a market for the catalog of detailed sketches that he had created to pass the years of numbing isolation.
But where to begin?
Since 2002, USA TODAY has been tracking nine Texas offenders released that November day, including Segovia, all of whom spent prolonged periods in isolation, either as punishment for misconduct in prison or for their association with criminal gangs. Segovia and the eight other inmates freed from solitary on the same day have all returned at least once — and some multiple times. Some describe a type of sensory paralysis that seemed to overwhelm them once they were finally free, a troubling consequence of the most extreme condition of confinement that has recently drawn the scrutiny of the Justice Department, prison officials and lawmakers across the U.S.
For all the enthusiasm Segovia harbored for a new start on the outside, the lasting effects of the harsh experience on the inside appeared to hold him back. After settling in with Ortencia Rosales, now his wife, he would spend many days sitting in the dark. The small living room of their Kerrville home was at first almost too overwhelming to navigate, compared to the cramped cell he occupied for 23 hours every day. Ineligible for substance abuse treatment because of his placement in segregation, he repeatedly succumbed on the outside to a longtime source of personal ruin, alcohol, picking up three drunken driving charges in just five months.
It is no surprise, then, that he is now back in a more familiar place — solitary confinement. Alone in a windowless cell, no more than 8 by 10 feet, is a place where at various times he has spent nearly half of his 43 years. The conditions of confinement are indeed extreme for drunken driving offenses, yet Segovia’s past association with the Mexican Mafia prison gang has made his segregation mandatory.
“When I look back, I can’t believe it,” Segovia said in a recent interview.