Two years ago, Sarah Shourd was released from an Iranian prison. She and two other Americans went hiking in 2009 in Iraqi Kurdistan, but Iran accused them of spying and put them behind bars. They have a book coming out next year.
One part of Patt Morrison’s L.A. Times interview with Shourd stood out to me, because sadly, the U.S. puts prisoners in solitary all the time, including Bradley Manning, including Guantanamo Bay detainees like the man I’ve written about for years, Fayiz al-Kandari.
To read Shourd’s description of her ordeal brought back all my feelings of frustration and anger over the issue of torture and indefinite detention, topics that come up only rarely these days.
Why is solitary confinement your cause?
I was in solitary confinement 410 days. I had hallucinations. I had violent panic attacks. I beat at the walls until my knuckles bled. I know the toll it takes. Prolonged solitary confinement is without a doubt psychological torture. It’s used in our own prisons as a routine practice; it’s used for something as small as not returning a book on time.
Should it be banned?
I agree with a U.N. expert that it should be proscribed except as a very last resort. It’s morally wrong. It’s also costing us a lot of tax dollars to keep people in isolation. It doesn’t help an individual’s reform.
Was it hard for you to be around people again?
Extremely difficult. I’d been dreaming for 13 1/2 months of not being alone, but when I was released, I found it difficult to interact with other human beings. My family, people I had been yearning to see — I found myself overwhelmed, difficult to make physical contact, very jumpy.
Please read the entire interview here.