A group of local criminal justice reformer activists has organized a Week of Action on Solitary Confinement to raise awareness of what they consider the cruelty of the practice which 80 to 100 thousand Americans experience every day. As part of the effort, a play on the issue is premiering Wednesday night at Boston University. It's called "Mariposa and the Saint" and tells the true story of a woman locked in solitary confinement for nearly three years, all through the letters Mariposa exchanged with the playwright. It's a timely play, as Massachusetts legislators are considering a bill that would limit the use of solitary in state prisons. 

Prisoners' Legal Services Attorney  Lizz Matos and State Coordinator at the National Ex-Offenders Re-Entry Program  Benito Vega joined Jim to discuss solitary confinement. Matos said that, on an average day, most of the 500 solitary confinement beds in Massachusetts are filled. The average time spent in solitary is unknown, as the stats go unreported. However, Matos said that the longest known case in Massachusetts is 18 years in solitary confinement. "We are definitely trailing the bus," said Matos, in comparison to other states. "We're one of a handful of states that allow prisoners to be sentenced up to ten years for one disciplinary infraction." The prisoners are held in a room the size of a bathroom, and are given five hours a week outside of their cell.

Currently in Massachusetts, we don't put juveniles in solitary confinement. However, there are 18 and 19-year-olds spending time in solitary confinement. Vega spent months in solitary confinement and said it was "a very lonely time." He had conversations with himself, "in order to get through the day ... some sort of communication." He was put into solitary because he said guards thought he was associated with a local gang. Vega believes that he is a different person after his solitary confinement. "You're always on edge," he said.

The bill that is being considered by Massachusetts legislators would not abolish solitary confinement, but rather limit it. Matos explained the reasons that people are put into solitary confinement, and how the bill will change these cases. Vega said, "it's a public safety matter." Matos agreed, "solitary confinement causes permanent damage after 15 days." 

Solitary Week of Action Schedule
Wednesday, March 23, 6pm -- Vigil outside Jacob Sleeper Auditorium, Boston University, 871

Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA

Wednesday, March 23, 7pm -- “Mariposa and the Saint”
Boston University, Jacob Sleeper Auditorium, 871 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA

Thursday, March 24, 4-6pm – Solitary Confinement Symposium, New England School of Law, Moot Courtroom 5F, 154 Stuart Street, Boston, MA

Thursday, March 24, 8pm -- “Mariposa and the Saint” Milford Performing Arts Center, 150 Mill Street, Milford, MA

Friday, March 25, 8pm -- “Mariposa and the Saint”
Suffolk University School of Law, First floor Function Room, 120 Tremont Street, Boston, MA

Saturday, March 26, 7pm -- “Mariposa and the Saint” First Church in Roxbury, 10 Putnam Street, Roxbury, MA

For more information, please go to www.plsma.org/mariposa