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Posted: January 12, 2019

‘I’ve seen people go crazy’: Former inmate describes 9 years in solitary unit

Daniel Barfield, 33, who was just released from prison after serving the last 9 years of his 20 year sentence in solitary confinement, sits on the bed in his bedroom at his mother’s home on Thursday, Dec 20, 2018, in Bainbridge. Barfield discussed the human toll of being locked up in isolation for such an extended period of time. (Photo: Curtis Compton/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Daniel Barfield, 33, who was just released from prison after serving the last 9 years of his 20 year sentence in solitary confinement, sits on the bed in his bedroom at his mother’s home on Thursday, Dec 20, 2018, in Bainbridge. Barfield discussed the human toll of being locked up in isolation for such an extended period of time. (Photo: Curtis Compton/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

By Christian Boone, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

BAINBRIDGE, Ga. —

The sounds that echoed through the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson’s solitary unit are not easily forgotten.

Daniel Barfield, who spent nine years inside the notorious special management unit, knows them well. He’s reminded of the agonizing screams from his friend Kareem, so desperate for human interaction that he’d cut himself just to get transported to the prison hospital. At least, there, he’d be able to talk to people.

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“I’ve seen people go crazy. I’ve heard people go crazy,” said Barfield, who completed his 20-year sentence in November

“Just out of the blue, a person will flip and act out all kind of different ways, saying they’re going to kill themselves,” he said.

Barfield survived the forced isolation and inactivity, confined 23 hours each day to a 7 by 13.5-foot cell, bereft of natural light. But his story goes beyond mere self-preservation. His willingness to tell all has already helped exact major changes to the place where he spent nearly a quarter of his life.

His testimony was pivotal to a settlement reached last week in which the state agreed to make changes in the way it holds prisoners in solitary confinement, according to Sarah Geraghty, a lawyer with the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, which sued the Georgia Department of Corrections over conditions inside the Jackson prison’s solitary unit.

Read The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's complete report here.


Related

Inmates eat steak while federal prison guards go unpaid

Inmates at several federal prisons were served lavish meals over the holidays while guards and other employees go unpaid as part of the partial government shutdown. 

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Inmates in Minnesota ate chicken wings, NBC News reported. The menu included steak and shrimp at Federal Correctional Institution Pekin in Illinois. Cornish hen and Boston cream pie were served at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

“This is like kicking someone when they are down," Joe Rojas, president of The American Federation of Government Employees Local 506 at the Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman, Florida, where inmates lunched on grilled steak, garlic macaroni and assorted pies, wrote in a recent letter to the Bureau of Prisons, NBC News reported. "They are getting a lavish meal and we are working the holidays away from our families wondering if we can pay the rent or make it home.”

Additionally, employees told NBC News that inmates who worked were still collecting government paychecks. 

"You're giving a gift to somebody who committed a crime, but yet you won't pay the people who are supervising them?" Sandy Parr, a food service foreman at Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota, told NBC News. "It's frustrating and maddening."

The Bureau of Prisons said the menus were meant to promote morale among the inmates who are separated from their families.

“(Holiday meals are) planned weeks in advance, including as happened here in advance of the government shutdown," the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement, NBC reported. "On Christmas, a facility may serve a special meat choice such as Cornish hen or a special dessert."

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