Dear Friends,

I am writing with good news — extraordinary news.

On July 1st, Connecticut will close its supermax prison, Northern Correctional Institution.

I had hoped this day would come, but I did not know whether I would live to see it. Northern has held hundreds of people, mostly Black and brown men, for months and years in solitary confinement. It’s been called “a mass grave with barbed wire.” I spent a year leading a team of students at Yale Law School investigating the prison. We made a 30 min film called the Worst of the Worst.

Watch our short film The Worst of the Worst: Portrait of a Supermax. And if you can do one thing today, click here to call legislators in Connecticut and ask them to ban solitary confinement in the state for good.

I write about investigating this prison in my book See No Stranger. At first, my team and I focused on the prisoners and the horrific impact of 23 hours a day in a cell. At some point, I started wondering about our opponents, the men holding the keys to the cages. We began to interview correctional officers and to my surprise, we learned of high rates of alcoholism, depression, and suicide. We told a story that showed that the institution harmed every person who entered its halls.

Within months of the film’s release, the Connecticut Department of Corrections began shutting down housing units. The prison population at Northern was reduced from around four hundred to about forty. But a few years later, the prison began to fill up again. I was despondent. But community organizers on the ground did not let up. Nine years later, they won — Northern will close.

It’s a monumental victory, a landmark moment in reimagining criminal justice in America. It’s also a story of revolutionary love — how to fight for change in a way that affirms the humanity of all and reimagine a future that frees all in the story. Thank you to the former prisoners, families, lawyers, students, faith leaders, correctional leaders, and community leaders who made this day possible.

Now they need our help. Connecticut could pass a bill that would end solitary confinement in the state for good. The PROTECT Act is being considered right now. If a critical mass of us call legislators, we could tip the balance.

Call legislators to support the PROTECT Act on or before June 2nd. Even a handful of calls will make a difference. Our friends on the ground are asking us to reach out to these five Connecticut representatives:

Governor Ned Lamont, 800-406-1527
Senate President Martin Looney, 860-240-0375
Senator Bob Duff, Senate Majority Leader, 860-240-0414
State Representative Matt Ritter, 860-240-8585
State Representative JasonRojas, 860-240-8585

Here is a sample call script:

“Hello [Rep OR Senator’s name]! My name is __. I am calling because I’ve learned that Connecticut still places people in solitary confinement. These are brutal and inhuman conditions defined as torture by the United Nations. The PROTECT Act would end this practice in the state. Now that the bill has passed out of committee, I am calling to ask that you support it and co-sponsor it. If you help pass this act, you would make history and lead by example for the nation. I give you my support and wish you courage and moral clarity. Thank you so much for listening!”

When you take action, you are becoming part of this story — and this historic moment. If we can end solitary confinement in Connecticut, then it can happen all across the United States. Pick up the phone. Make a call. Feel the momentum. Share this message. We are so close.

Breathe — and push,
Valarie


The PROTECT Act will end solitary confinement in Connecticut. The bill is being voted on now. Take action before or on June 2nd:

  1. SIGN the petition.

  2. CALL your legislators! Find call scripts and contact information here.

  3. JOIN THE RALLY on the steps of the Connecticut State Legislator on June 2nd at NOON.


MORE ABOUT NORTHERN CORRECTIONAL

Watch THE WORST OF THE WORST. Our film presents the stories of inmates, correctional officers, wardens, psychiatrists, and officials to show how the supermax prison hurt all who walked through its doors, those behind bars and those guarding the cells, their families and communities.

Read Chapter 6 from SEE NO STRANGER for the full story about Northern and the power of shifting from resisting to reimagining. Today nearly every state has one supermax. Eighty thousand people are held in solitary confinement, a third of them in a supermax prison. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture that spending fifteen days in solitary confinement causes irreparable damage. Some institutions are so inhumane they cannot be reformed —they must be dismantled. Every unjust institution in history seemed permanent until it was imagined otherwise.

art by @1MillionWomen on Instagram