Illustration by Ayo Walker for truthout

Every morning, Mary Frances Barbee wakes up and experiences a “microsecond of happiness before the terror sets in.”

Barbee had a heart attack, transient ischemic attack and then a stroke after her sons were incarcerated. She puts on a brave front when they call.

“I wonder what they are going through, will they be able to call today, and how long until they are out of lockdown again,” Barbee, 71, says as she chokes back tears. “Will it be for just three hours after many days or weeks locked inside? They have no exercise. Four, six or 12 days without a shower. It is inhumane treatment on a daily basis.”

What Barbee is living through is something that millions of people inside and outside razor wire are also experiencing: The purgatory of endless prison “lockdowns” where prisoners are forced to live in isolation that typically exceeds punitive segregation conditions.

An exclusive, eight-month investigation for Truthout has revealed that at least 33 U.S. state prison systems and the majority of federal medium-, high- and maximum-security prisons have […]

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