An American Gulag

A continuing series on the nation’s prisons

What began as a three-part series exploring allegations of abuse at the country's most secure prison has continued as an ongoing watch of how mentally ill inmates are treated throughout the prison system.


The Shakespearean Death of Billy Slagle
An inmate committed suicide three days before his scheduled execution — and 36 hours after prosecutors discovered shocking new information that might have saved him.
One of the Darkest Periods in the History of American Prisons
Recent lawsuits and Justice Department investigations have uncovered grotesque abuses of mentally ill inmates at state and local prisons. Yet Washington refuses to investigate allegations of similar mistreatment at federal penitentiaries.
Did the Wrong Man Spend 40 Years in Solitary Confinement?
What a sham trial in Louisiana says about the U.S. court system
At Louisiana's Most Notorious Prison, a Clash of Testament
A recent New York Times article praises the penitentiary's Bible study program—and barely mentions the numerous lawsuits it's facing for inhumane conditions.
Government Watchdog: We Have a Growing Federal Prison 'Crisis'
The Justice Department's Inspector General is out with his year-end review of federal law enforcement efforts. Its language is diplomatic but the message is clear: The feds need to do better, much better, on many fronts.
40 Years Later, the Cruelty of Papillon is a Reality in U.S. Prisons
Two generations after the famous film about solitary confinement first appeared, it's still relevant to the deplorable treatment of inmates in America's prisons today.
Colorado Will No Longer Send the 'Major Mentally Ill' to Solitary Confinement
Under fire from critics and the federal courts, state officials make a bold move. But how will the new rule be put into practice?
Half a Life in Solitary: How Colorado Made a Young Man Insane
A young man was sentenced to life in prison without parole after a dubious trial. And then things got worse.
How Not to Hold an 'Oversight' Hearing
At a time of overcrowded prisons, cost overruns, and serious allegations of abuse and neglect, the Senate Judiciary Committee plays patty-cake with the Bureau of Prisons chief.
5 Questions for Federal Prisons Chief When He Comes to Capitol Hill
Senators should demand that Charles Samuels account for the federal system's mistreatment of mentally ill inmates.
What the Death of Ariel Castro Reveals About Ohio's Prisons
A new report states that prison guards falsified their logs the night the inmate committed suicide. And that's only part of the problem.
Prison Officials Finally Agree to Transfer Floridly Psychotic Inmate
It took years of extreme mental illness, and federal court supervision, for Jonathan Francisco to finally get help.
An inmate shares an eyewitness account of the latest suicide at Supermax.
Under his administration and prior ones, the treatment of mentally ill inmates by the Bureau of Prisons has generated harrowing allegations of abuse and neglect.
Federal Judge Refuses to Dismiss Supermax Abuse Lawsuits
Mentally ill prisoners at America's most famous prison win the day in court—but still have a long way to go to get the relief they've requested.
Should Mentally Ill Federal Prisoners Be Punished for Suicide Attempts?
Last summer, the Bureau of Prisons told inmates to seek help if they were feeling suicidal. But when inmate Percy Barron reached out, help wasn't what he wound up getting.
Enough Is Enough—Time for the Feds to Investigate Prison Abuse
The Bureau of Prisons has been accused of the systematic mistreatment of mentally ill inmates. DOJ's Office of the Inspector General should look into the matter.
Finally, Justice at Supermax? If Anyone Can Make the Right Call, It's This Judge​
He's tough. He's courageous. He tried Timothy McVeigh. Now Richard Matsch takes on another critical case: a civil rights lawsuit alleging prisoner abuse and neglect.


An ongoing series explores allegations of abuse at ADX-Florence, the country's most secure prison.

A detailed federal lawsuit alleges chronic abuse and neglect of mentally ill prisoners at America's most famous prison.


Inmates at America's most famous and secure prison allege a cycle of abuse and madness, neglect, and retribution.



The Eighth Amendment prohibits the "cruel and unusual punishment" of inmates. So how will the Bureau of Prisons defend itself at Supermax?


After serious allegations of mistreatment at Supermax, the agency in charge responds with a touchy-feely letter to inmates?


vega thumb final.jpgDeath, Yes, but Torture at Supermax?

A federal lawsuit alleges that officials at America's most famous prison are legally responsible for the suicide of an inmate.


vega 1-legsthumb.jpgFeds in Supermax Lawsuit: Suicidal Prisoner? What Suicidal Prisoner? Ignoring the merits, the government seeks a quick dismissal of a civil-rights lawsuit alleging neglect and mistreatment at America's most famous prison.