This August, Associate Professor Brackette F. Williams joined Caroline Isaacs and Matthew Lowen (American Friends Service Committee, Arizona Area Program), and Nick Tara (La Frontera) in conducting a 3.5 hours training session to assist social workers in recognizing problems confronting the post-incarcerated persons among clients. The team presented different perspectives on the causes and consequences of the prevalence of the mentally ill among the increasing numbers of prisoners returning to the community after having long periods in housing units that restrict prisoners to their cells for 23 hours per day 4 to 5 days per week.
Williams presented perspectives drawn from her 18-month project conducted as an Open Society Senior Soros Justice Advocacy Fellows Program and as volunteer for American Friends Service Committee, Arizona Area Program. The project, based on interviews and participant observation with 44 persons who returned to Pima and Maricopa communities, having spent at least 12 consecutive months in maximum-security solitary, revealed that persons who by self-report claimed to have entered long-term lockdown mentally healthy also reported returning home with a complex combination of mental, social, physical, and economic debilities. The debilities were seldom the outcomes of one long-term in lockdown. Instead, among the 44 interviewees mental and physical health problems were reported to span the multiple, multi-year periods they variously spent in solitary and other forms of maximum-security lockdown. Combined time showed the oldest of the 44 having spent as much as 80 per cent of two or more sentences that ranged from 5 to 20 years in lockdown, while the youngest reported that if they return to prison they expected to spend much of their time under lockdown conditions.