Kids held in solitary confinement at Rikers Island, the massive jail complex in the middle of New York City’s East River, are truly pushed to their limits, with many throwing fits, hallucinating and throwing urine around or smearing their own feces on the cinderblock walls in which they are confined.
Ismael Nazario was one such youth who experienced the hell of isolation at Rikers Island., one time for a duration of four months (according to the United Nations, 15 days or more in solitary qualifies as torture). He coped by pacing, talking to himself and stuffing his rage and tears. He tried unsuccessfully to block out the ear-splitting screams of other teenaged boys in the cells around him, and would sometimes resort to standing at his own cell door and yelling.
Regarding this living hell, Nazario shared:
“You just get angry with hearing people constantly hollering all day,” he says. “There’s so many people that have been in that cell and screamed on that same gate, it smells like a bunch of breath and drool.”
Nazario is just one of many teens sent during that time to Rikers’ solitary confinement, referred to by the teens held in the hole as “the boxL 23 hours a day in 6-by-8-foot cell.
Every year, thousands of teens are held in solitary confinement in jails, prisons and juvenile halls nationwide. This is the story of Ismael “Izzy” Nazario and the time he spent in solitary confinement in New York City’s Rikers Island jail. Izzy’s dialogue is taken from transcriptions of audio recordings from several interviews.
There are currently thousands of kids in solitary confinement nationwide. New York state prisons recently agreed to ban solitary confinement as punishment for inmates younger than eighteen. But this doesn’t apply to Rikers Island and other New York jails.
The New York City Department of Correction declined interview requests and would not let the Center for Investigative Reporting visit the box.
Izzy is now a case manager for teens and adults coming out of Rikers Island.
Reported by Daffodil Altan and Trey Bundy, and illustrated and designed by Anna Vignet. Senior multimedia producer: Michael Schiller
Source: Center for Investigative Reporting; View original piece at: Torture Expressed Through Art: A teen’s horrifying tale of solitary confinement at NYC’s Rikers Island jail