“I always felt unsafe is solitary,” said 53-year-old Jacqueline Craig, who was incarcerated at age 16 for a drug offense and went on to spend 20 years of her life in prison, roughly six or seven of those in “the hole,” or solitary confinement. “I had to put on this bad-ass persona. I got more confrontational and ended up with more and more time in solitary.”
Women make up 7 percent of the 2.4 million people in prison in the United States. But despite this relatively small percentage, the rate of incarceration for women is growing faster than any other demographic. Recent scrutiny in an ACLU report released last month, “Worse Than Second Class: Solitary Confinement of Women in the United States,” posits that women are affected by solitary confinement—what typically amount to 22 to 23 hours alone in a cell the size of a large bathroom for weeks, months or years at a time—in distinct and often uniquely harmful ways.
“Women are put in the hole for small things,” said Craig, who now works as a supervisor at a domestic violence safe house in Washington, D.C. “Sometimes there’s a fight or something, but it can be for something stupid, like stealing a tomato from the kitchen, or having two blankets instead of one.”