The Horrors of Solitary Confinement: Words from Death Row Exonoree Anthony Graves

By Kirsten Bokenkamp
Senior Communications Strategist

Putting inmates in solitary confinement is exorbitantly expensive and it jeopardizes public safety. Beyond that, placing a human being in solitary confinement is inhumane.  But, don’t just take our word for it. Instead, you can hear it first hand from death row exonoree Anthony Graves. Mr. Graves was wrongfully convicted of murder and had been imprisoned for more than 18 years before he was exonerated. Last week was the first-ever Congressional hearing on solitary confinement and Graves bravely testified about his experience as a death row inmate in Texas.  Here are just a few things he had to say:

I lived under some of the worst conditions imaginable with the filth, the food, the total disrespect of human dignity. I lived under the rules of a system that is literally driving men out of their minds.

I had a steel toilet and sink that were connected together, and it was positioned in the sight of male and female officers. They would walk the runs and I would be in plain view while using the toilet.

The food lacks the proper nutrition, because it is either dehydrated when served to you or perhaps you’ll find things like rat feces or a small piece of broken glass.

There is no real medical care. After I was exonerated and able to go to a doctor, I was told that the food I had been eating caused me to have over 13 percent plaque in my veins, which can cause strokes, heart attacks, and aneurysms.

I was there when guys would attempt suicide by cutting themselves, trying to tie a sheet around their neck or overdosing on their medication. Then there were the guys that actually committed suicide

Solitary confinement does one thing, it breaks a man’s will to live and he ends up deteriorating. He’s never the same person again. Then his mother comes to see her son sitting behind plexiglass, whom she hasn’t been able to touch in years, and she has to watch as her child deteriorates right in front of her eyes. This madness has a ripple effect. It doesn’t just affect the inmate; it also affects his family, his children, his siblings and most importantly his mother.

Somehow, someway, Anthony Graves was able to stay sane for all those years.  And, he finally got his life back after he was exonerated. He finally could reach out and give his mother a hug.  But, there are many others who continue to suffer under these horrific conditions day after day in Texas. Work with the ACLU of Texas towards putting an end to the unnecessary use of solitary confinement.  Join the Community Action Network today.

2 thoughts on “The Horrors of Solitary Confinement: Words from Death Row Exonoree Anthony Graves”

  1. This is very one sided. Where is the view of the prison involved? For one thing, right or wrong, this guy was convicted by a jury of his peers. This is his side of it.

    What was his conviction record? Did he have a history of violence in the past apart from this conviction? He may have been isolated for the safety of the other prisoners. What did he do while in prison? Did he fight with the other inmates to get himself put into prison? Did he threaten anyone? Was he a gang member? Do we want violent prisoners and others like Charles Manson roaming freely among the other prisoners teaching them the tricks of the trade?

    If you blindly accept whatever this man tells you without getting all the facts, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

  2. McCafferty,you are totally missing the point. The conditions described by Mr. Graves are intolerable in civilized society and it doesn’t matter whether he was guilty or not. As a matter of fact, if you care to read it the material on the Graves case is voluminous and presents a very convincing argument that Texas law is capricous and unfairly enforced. This is true whether you believe in capital punishment or not.

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