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

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'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)

- 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.

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