Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement

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$25.95  $24.13
New Press
Publish Date
5.7 X 1.0 X 8.3 inches | 0.8 pounds
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About the Author

Jean Casella is a co-director of Solitary Watch, a web-based watchdog project, and a Soros Justice Fellow. She is the editor of two previous anthologies and lives in Brooklyn, New York. James Ridgeway (1936-2021) was an investigative journalist for more than fifty years and was the author of seventeen previous books. He was a co-director of Solitary Watch and a Soros Justice Fellow. Sarah Shourd, a journalist and playwright, was held as a political hostage by the Iranian government, including 410 days in solitary, an experience she chronicled in A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran. She lives in Oakland, California.


"A book that people of conscience must read and share. The stories in it will not simply haunt us. They will inspire us to act."
--Heather Ann Thompson (Blood in the Water), Favorite Book of 2016 in Publishers Weekly

"A gutsy book. . . . The essays in Hell Is a Very Small Place are not only fascinating, but also expose readers to a whole way of life that is otherwise invisible."

"An unforgettable look at the peculiar horrors and humiliations involved in solitary confinement."
--New York Review of Books

"Hell Is a Very Small Place is composed of communication and observation that is not supposed to exist: it is a book as a minor act of rebellion."
--Los Angeles Review of Books

"Elegant but harrowing."
--San Francisco Chronicle

"The personal accounts by prisoners contained in this book are some of the most disturbing that I have ever read. There were many points throughout the book when my emotions became very overwhelming, and I had to pause and catch my breath."
--Chelsea Manning

"[I]f I were to recommend just one book on this topic to an interested citizen, I would recommend this one."

"[T]hese stories pack a visceral punch and make a convincing case for more humane conditions, better oversight, and continuing prison reform."
--Publishers Weekly

"A potent cry of anguish from men and women buried way down in the hole."

"Do we really think it makes sense to lock so many people alone in tiny cells for twenty-three hours a day for months, sometime for years at a time? That is not going to make us safer. It's not going to make us stronger."
-President Barack Obama

"Solitary confinement in American prisons has become one of our nation's most horrendous human rights problems. Much more public attention is needed to this shameful, wasteful, cruel travesty. Hell Is a Very Small Place is vitally important."
--Ralph Nader

"This important book leaves no doubt that solitary confinement has no place in a civilized society. The story of each person subject to solitary shows that he or she is somebody and that the life that is thrown away is not beyond redemption. Together they demonstrate the urgency of turning from hatred to understanding and from vengeance to reconciliation if we are going to have a decent, moral, and compassionate society."
--Stephen Bright, president and senior counsel, Southern Center for Human Rights

"Confronts the moral catastrophe of solitary confinement through compelling and courageous testimonies by the world's premier experts on the matter: the confined themselves."
--Glenn E. Martin, founder and president, JustLeadershipUSA