2 Inmates Were Put in Solitary Together. One Came Out

The practice of 'double celling' is shockingly common
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2016 4:45 PM CDT
2 Inmates Were Put in Solitary Together. One Came Out
This Feb. 5, 2013, file photo shows the Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Ill.   (Paul Newton /The Southern Illinoisan via AP, File)

It seems like some sort of oxymoron: two inmates together in solitary confinement. But as a joint investigation by NPR and the Marshall Project found, "double celling" is anything but an anomaly: They cite a 2014 Federal Bureau of Prisons report in asserting that "over 80% of the 10,747 federal prisoners in solitary [that year] have a cellmate." As the report itself states, "Virtually all of the inmates in [Special Management Units] and [Special Housing Units] are double-celled." And that can have truly deadly results. In more than 4,000 words, NPR and the Marshall Project flesh out some of the jarring stories that result from the practice, chief among them that of David Sesson and Bernard Simmons. The two men were put together in a 51-square-foot cell—that's smaller than a parking spot, the article points out—on Nov. 19, 2014.

Here's how small the space at Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois was: "If one stood, the other had to sit." The men, both 34, were in for life, for murder. Sesson was, as the article puts it, "desperate" to be alone, so much so that he told guards he'd harm any roommate he was given. And yet the men were put together, and less than six hours later, Simmons was dead. Sesson says Simmons swung first, but it was Sesson who removed a lace from his boots and used it to choke Simmons. It was the fourth such death in not even two years in Menard's solitary unit. Among the reasons and justifications for double celling: overcrowding, to erode the very label and implications of "solitary." Read the full article here. (Read more solitary confinement stories.)

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