American once placed in solitary confinement in Iran explores solitary confinement in US prisons

Brilliant multimedia, multi-part feature in Mother Jones by Shane Bauer, one of the American hikers who was arrested by Iranian authorities on the Iran-Iraq border, then placed in solitary, then eventually released.

In this investigative feature, Bauer goes inside the notorious isolation units of California's Pelican Bay prison.

Even before reading the piece or watching the video, one has to respect the man for the sheer pain of the PTSD that must have induced. This is just 7 months after he was freed from prison in Iran, and was his first time behind bars since being released.


"So when you're in Iran and in solitary confinement," asks my guide, Lieutenant Chris Acosta, "was it different?" His tone makes clear that he believes an Iranian prison to be a bad place.

He's right about that. After being apprehended on the Iran-Iraq border, Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal, and I were held in Evin Prison's isolation ward for political prisoners. Sarah remained there for 13 months, Josh and I for 26 months. We were held incommunicado. We never knew when, or if, we would get out. We didn't go to trial for two years. When we did we had no way to speak to a lawyer and no means of contesting the charges against us, which included espionage. The alleged evidence the court held was "confidential."

What I want to tell Acosta is that no part of my experience—not the uncertainty of when I would be free again, not the tortured screams of other prisoners—was worse than the four months I spent in solitary confinement.

"Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America's Prisons." (Mother Jones, thanks Mike Mechanic)


  1. Great video – really interesting stuff.

    Frankly I find it hard to believe that this is even possible in a country so concerned with rights. Especially as the UN defines this as torture – why aren’t they intervening? Grow a backbone already for crying out loud.

    1. We jaw about rights but we fundamentally don’t believe in them. Rights are conflated with privileges. The wealthy have a full set and you can not take that away. The well off enough try to assume some rights as well. Someone homeless or in prison – they don’t have rights in America. If they breathe or use the restroom they are said to have given up their rights. If they are ever legally or verbally acknowledged to actually have rights the system has de-facto managed to fully circumvent any such rights.

      What got these guys in solitary in this video? Left wing literature? Possessing writings about prisoner’s rights? Smell the freedom.

      1. Makes you wonder how they’re defining “gang.”  If reading Machiavelli is evidence then I am guilty.

  2. Some guys there are truly guilty. Some are possibly not. I surely would not want the job of knowing for sure who is and who isn’t. It is something that our country is looking more into day by day however (on a brighter note). And individuals CAN make a difference. Check out “Injustice Anywhere”…it’s got some good info. Some good change HAS happened and will continue to do so as long as people do something, anything…

  3. It is worth reading the article.  The video doesn’t do it justice.

    This is absolutely disgusting.  The prison situation in the US is beyond horrifying.  How can we all live with this?

    I am writing my elected leaders.  If anyone has other ideas, please post them.

Comments are closed.