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Locked Down, Locked Out by Maya Schenwar

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Chapter 7Working from the Inside Out: Decarcerate!

This could be your brother, your son, or your father. This is what’s in our future. We have to stop it.

—Reginald Akkeem Berry, on the need to oppose supermax prisons

In 2006, a letter was slipped in through the door slat in Johnnie Walton’s cell. Johnnie was living—twenty-three hours a day—in a seventy-square-foot cell furnished with a concrete bed, a solid steel door, and a window through which little light traveled. Through the slat in the door, three times a day, Johnnie’s meals appeared. For one hour each day, Johnnie was permitted solitary “recreation” in a small pen just outside his cell.

The same routine went for the roughly 250 other prisoners in Tamms, the supermax prison that had opened ...

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