Six by Ten: Stories from Solitary

Six by Ten: Stories from Solitary


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This compelling collection of stories told directly by people personally impacted by solitary confinement is the first book in a new Voice of Witness series with Haymarket Books.

An estimated 80,000 Americans are held in solitary confinement in prisons across the country. Solitary confinement, often in cells no bigger than six by ten feet, means twenty-four hours per day with little or no meaningful human contact. Six by Ten explores the mental, physical, and spiritual impacts of America’s widespread embrace of solitary confinement, as told through the first-person narratives of individuals subjected to solitary confinement, family members on the outside, and corrections officers.

Each chapter presents a different individual’s story and probes how Americans from all over the country and all walks of life find themselves held in solitary for years or even decades at a time. In addition to evocative first-hand accounts, the book also includes essays and analysis on how solitary became such a prominent feature of the US prison system today.

Solitary confinement is the little-known dead end of the US criminal justice system. To understand that system, people need to understand and wrestle with what is happening in America’s isolation cells.

Mateo Hoke is writer, journalist, and co-editor of Palestine Speaks: Narratives of Life Under Occupation.

Taylor Pendergrass is a lawyer and activist focused on criminal justice reform. He currently works for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608469567
Publisher: Haymarket Books
Publication date: 10/02/2018
Series: Voice of Witness Series
Pages: 296
Sales rank: 774,933
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Mateo Hoke is writer, journalist, and coeditor of Palestine Speaks: Narratives of Life under Occupation. He studied journalism at the University of Colorado and the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Taylor Pendergrass is an advocate and activist around ending mass incarceration and racial injustice in the criminal legal system. He currently works for the ACLU and lives in Denver, Colorado. He graduated from Duke University and the University of Colorado School of Law.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION by Taylor Pendergrass and Mateo Hoke

EDITORS’ NOTE: Ten Things to Know as You Read This Book



Maryam Henderson-Ulohu (Louisiana)

“I was the only woman in the prison who was Muslim, the only one who wore a headscarf.”

Brian Nelson (Illinois)

“There were times where I lost track of time. And I’m afraid of that happening again.”

Aaron Lewis (Connecticut)

“They create this hardened person and then they release them to the community, which is doomed for destruction.”

Vernesia Gordon (Alaska)

“They pepper-sprayed him through that slot in the door. You see these long shots of pepper-spray going in.”

Mohammed “Mike” Iftiker Ali (California)

“In immigration detention, everybody was fighting for their lives but in different ways. You knew you might not ever see your family again.”

Steve Blakeman (Washington)

“I think that mercy and justice in proper balance is the key.”

Candie Hailey (New York)

“If anybody wants to know what hell is, that’s what hell is.”

Shearod McFarland (Michigan)

“I had started to envision myself hanging from beams and having other suicidal visions.”

Sonya Calico (Texas)

“It seemed like they had a rule that every time someone who’s transgender goes in . . . they automatically go straight to solitary.”

Travis Trani (Colorado)

“How safe is that, really, to take somebody from twenty-three-hour-a-day lockdown, and now he’s on the street corner in Denver, catching a bus with civilians?”

Tonja Fenton (New York)

“I have developed zero tolerance for anything. I wasn’t like this before.”

Jason Mollino (California)

“Is it torture? I’d say yes because we crave human contact.”

Heather Chapman (Florida)

“They’re torturing my husband. They’re torturing me. They’re torturing my daughters. They’re destroying our family.”

Michael “Zaharibu” Dorrough (California)

“I think that many of us reclaimed our humanity. Fighting back will do that.”


  1. Timeline of Solitary Confinement in the United States

  2. Glossary TK

III. Solitary as Violence (Title TK): essay by law professor Hope Metcalf

  1. ACLU piece on current state of solitary policy and reform TK by Amy Fettig

  2. Five Demands of 2011 California Prisoner Hunger Strike

  3. Ten Things You Can Do

VII. Q&A with mental health expert TK


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