How Prison Lockdowns Rob Incarcerated People Of Their Humanity

open hallway in a jail
Via flickr
Tremain Prioleau II
February 23, 2024

Lockdowns typically last a few days to several weeks. During this time, general population status is closed, prisoners cannot engage in their regular activities and routines, and they are stripped of the few rights they have. Why does this happen?

Lockdowns were originally reserved for serious incidents like large-scale prison violence or an escape. These lockdowns would almost always be contained to a single unit or prison at a time. However, according to data from Truthout, at least 33 U.S. state prison systems and the majority of federal medium, high and maximum-security prisons placed general population adults under lockdown at least once from 2016–2023.

Restricted movement protocols normalized during the COVID-19 pandemic have been used to transition many prisons slowly into constant lockdowns. This slow normalization has made it difficult to rally public outrage around this inhumane practice.

Imagine having to endure these conditions for months on end. Under lockdown, everyday activities like showering, exercising, and even some forms of communication are prohibited. Commissary access is cut off, and religious and rehabilitative care is suspended. Essentially, everything in prison stops.

The prison industrial complex has slowly weaponized prison lockdowns to terrorize incarcerated people. They do not deserve to live under permanent lockdown. How can we raise awareness of these deplorable conditions so that they end?

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