I’ve experienced an extraordinary emotional awakening during my studies at the University of Southern Maine this semester.

A course about mass incarceration has opened doors within my heart that I thought would remain locked forever. My new-found ability to empathize with Maine’s inmates has extended even to my own father, from whom I’ve been estranged for nearly 10 years.

I cannot help but share the insights gained, as I’ve borne witness and am further studying the failed policies of Maine’s Department of Corrections. The fire of advocacy has been lit inside my soul, charging me with revealing Maine’s invisible inmates, who have been so castigated by our society that they cannot even argue for themselves.

The continuing use of solitary confinement (referred to by prison officials as “segregation”) is perhaps the most egregious of our state’s numerous miscarriages of justice. The “Frontline” documentary, “Solitary Nation,” which was produced in 2014, chose the Maine State Prison as its example of America’s widespread abuse of solitary confinement.

Even the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture condemned solitary confinement as cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The American Psychological Association also has found that solitary confinement exacerbates mental illness, which leads to an increase in violent behavior and self harm.

These are just some of the many reasons why I believe Mainers must call for the complete abolition of solitary confinement in Maine’s correctional facilities and county jails.

Matthew Raymond


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