Home » Politics » A prisoner was 'covered in filth and barking like a dog' after 600 days of solitary confinement in a Virginia jail
A prisoner was 'covered in filth and barking like a dog' after 600 days of solitary confinement in a Virginia jail
Tyquine Lee, 28, spent over 600 days in solitary at Red Onion prison in Virginia from 2016 to 2018.
Red Onion is a supermax prison treated as an ‘end of the line’ facility within the penal system.
61,000 adults and children are held in segregation in US prisons, according to the most recent data.
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When Takeisha Brown finally got to visit her son, Tyquine Lee, at the Red Onion State Prison, Virginia, she didn’t recognize him.”I saw someone that wasn’t my son. He was just so small. He was rambling in numbers. He had a language of his own.”
His bones stuck out; his teeth were decaying; his clothes were filthy. It’s horrifying. I’ll remember the sight for the rest of my life,” she told The Appeal.
Lee’s treatment is just one of the thousands of stories of solitary confinement in America that campaigners say is inhumane and should be radically curtailed.
Lee, who was sentenced to 78 years in prison for a string of home invasions in 2011 with his girlfriend, served 600 days in solitary confinement in Red Onion, a state maximum security prison, between 2016 to 2018, and barely survived.
The only time that he was allowed out of his cell was for three showers a week and two hours a day when he could exercise in a yard roughly the same size as a parking space, The Mirror added.
When Lee protested at his treatment, he was maced by prison officers a total of 25 times, a lawsuit filed by his mother against the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) in 2019 said.
According to The Appeal, Lee, 28, was sometimes given food covered in maggots and filth, and his weight dropped more than 30 pounds. As his mental and physical condition deteriorated, he began to speak in numbers and signed his name using random letters.
When his mother asked prison staff for Lee to be removed from solitary, she was told he would have to complete a series of requirements, including a collection of workbooks, an impossible task given his mental state, the MacArthur Justice Center noted.
Lee’s mother and sister made the 12-hour roundtrip to see him through a plexiglass barrier as often as they could but at one point was banned from visiting him for six months, leaving him bereft of family contact, The Mirror reported.
“Before we left, Tyquine would start to growl and bark like a dog. When I got back to my hotel room, I locked myself in the bathroom for hours crying and praying to God that he has mercy on Tyquine’s life,” Brown said, according to The Guardian.
He was eventually released back into the general prison population in 2018, following a schizophrenia and personality disorder diagnosis.
Lee had struggled with mental health issues for most of his life and, by the age of 10, had already been hospitalized four times.
In January, Takeisha Brown reached a settlement with the VDOC allowing Tyquine Lee to be moved to a correctional facility closer to her in New Jersey. Lee will also receive over $100,000 in damages from the department, the MacArthur Justice Center added.
Red Onion gained notoriety after it was featured in Kristi Jacobson’s harrowing 2016 documentary ‘Solitary.’ A supermax prison that opened in 1998 designed to house criminals considered ‘the worst of the worst.’ Today, it is treated as an ‘end of the line’ facility for inmates who have broken the rules in other prisons.