Thu Oct. 18, 2012
Elizabeth Gettelman
Phone Number: 


Shane Bauer, an American hiker held captive in an Iranian prison for more than two years, finally came home last September. Resuming his life also meant returning to journalism, and for his first big story Bauer chose to delve into an issue he understands like perhaps no other reporter: life inside prison, specifically the "living death" of solitary confinement. In a powerful investigation, supported by the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, Bauer exposes the alarming corrections practices governing solitary confinement in California. Bauer's Mother Jones cover story, "No Way Out," exposes the widespread yet barely known practice of gang validation, which often means inmates can be locked up in solitary for indefinite terms, lasting years and decades, with no due process and barely a chance of appeal.
Across the US more than 80,000 prisoners are held in solitary confinement today, nearly 12,000 in California alone. Prisoners in California can be classified as gang associates for learning about Malcolm X or for suspicious Christmas cards—whether they ever had any interaction with a gang or not. Isolated quarters at Pelican Bay State Prison, where more than half of segregated prisoners have been in isolation for at least five years, costs the state $14 million annually. Bauer visits Pelican Bay where he steps into a prison for the first time since his own incarceration, a guard asks how his experience compared:

"’There was a window,’ I say. I don't quite know how to tell him what I mean by that answer. ‘Just having that light come in, seeing the light move across the cell, seeing what time of day it was.’…For hours, days, I fixated on the patch of sunlight cast against my wall through those barred and grated windows. When, after five weeks, my knees buckled and I fell to the ground utterly broken, sobbing and rocking to the beat of my heart, it was the patch of sunlight that brought me back. Its slow creeping against the wall reminded me that the world did in fact turn and that time was something other than the stagnant pool my life was draining into.
For for an interview with Bauer please contact Elizabeth Gettelman at 415-321-1759 or