Anthony Gay Open Letter to Members of the Illinois General Assembly

Members of the Illinois General Assembly;

Solitary confinement or long-term punitive segregation is a psychological wasteland. It is an environment that not only causes inmates to psychologically deteriorate - it causes undue horror and stress for those that work there too.

I spent two decades in solitary confinement in the Illinois Department of Corrections. I lost my social identity in solitary confinement. I felt rejected, lost and alone. In desperate attempts at a sense of humanity, I used to mutilate my neck, arms, legs and private parts. I used to put razors in my eyes that required surgical removal. This was not only a horrifying and traumatic experience for me, it was a horrifying and traumatic experience for the custodial staff who witnessed it too. I remember on one occasion I cut my neck, and the nurse on duty who observed it, started crying.

I remember when I was in the Northhouse in Pontiac, trapped in a cell, smaller than a gas station bathroom. I had cut myself. I was escorted to the infirmary and put in therapeutic restraints. Upon release from restraints, I was informed that later that day, I would be transferred back to the Northhouse. I became so desperate not to go back to the psychological wasteland of the Northhouse that I slipped my handcuffs and used the handcuffs to slice open my inner thigh. The ill-effects of solitary confinement are horrifying and real for staff and inmates.

Illinois Representative LaShawn Ford has introduced HB 3564, which I’m honored he has named the Anthony Gay Isolated Confinement Bill. This legislation would create much needed reform to restore basic civil rights to solitary confinement. The bill would limit solitary confinement to 10 days in a six-month period. I have 10 reasons why you should support it. (1) Solitary confinement causes people to mentally deteriorate; (2) Solitary confinement causes people to engage in horrific self-harm; (3) Solitary confinement is a time capsule that stagnates and destroys social health and well-being; (4) Solitary confinement deprives people of social stimulation; (5) Solitary confinement causes people to lose their social identity; (6) Solitary confinement is torture; (7) Solitary confinement causes PTSD; (8) Solitary confinement is a psychological zoo; (9) Solitary confinement causes people to be lost and forgotten; (10) Solitary confinement breaks spirits and sets people up for failure upon reentry.

For these reasons, I respectfully request you support this bill, and would be willing to have a discussion with you on this very important topic.


Anthony Gay



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