Inmate's Desperate Letter Exposes Harsh Ga. Prison Isolation Unit

"I saw things there I'd never seen before," a solitary confinement expert said of the unit

With an 11-page, handwritten complaint, a convicted rapist in Georgia convinced a judge to investigate and eventually open to outsiders its solitary confinement unit, NBC News reported.

Timothy Gumm said that, in isolation for five years at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison after an escape attempt, he was "deprived of almost any environmental and sensory stimuli and of almost all human contact."

The federal judge noticed other prisoners making similar complaints and allowed Gumm's complaint to go forward. His lawyers hired solitary confinement expert Craig Haney, a social psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to examine the unit, and his report led to a settlement in which the state agreed to curtail solitary confinement usage.

"I saw things there I'd never seen before," Haney told NBC News, including cells with metal shields over the window that left inmates "hermetically sealed" inside.

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