How to Survive Solitary Confinement
By Susie Neilson
Posted January 16, 2020
With a sigh, Johnny Perez rises from his plastic chair, unfolds his lanky frame and extends his wingspan until the tips of his middle fingers graze the walls. “It was from here to here,” he says. “I know because I used to do this all the time.” Until recently, these measurements—10 feet by 6 feet—fit his entire life.
Two years ago, Perez was released on parole after serving 13 years at Rikers Island penitentiary and prisons in upstate New York, three of which he spent in solitary confinement.1 Sitting across from Perez, you wonder how he feels in this space, a tiny, harshly lit conference room at the Urban Justice Center on Wall Street in Manhattan. Whether it brings back traumatic memories, or feels like home, or both. More…