Billy McCarthy, lead singer of the band We Are Augustines, lost a brother to the horrors of solitary confinement. Many of the songs he writes are influenced by this family tragedy.
McCarthy's brother, James, was mentally ill. He wound up in Fulsom State Prison and spent five years in solitary before being sent to a hospital for mental health treatment. Shortly after arriving there, James hung himself with a bedsheet.
In an ACLU podcast, McCarthy talks about his brother as a child, James's descent into mental illness and his time in the inhumane conditions of solitary confinement -- a place that McCarthy says he wouldn't even put a dog.
The ACLU of Montana is working to keep mentally ill prisoners out of solitary confinement. It is cruel and inhumane and only exacerbates their condition. Thankfully we were able to get our teenage client, Raistlen Katka, out of solitary at Montana State Prison.
Raistlen was incarcerated there at MSP at the age of 16 and spent more than a year in solitary while a minor. In 2010 a judge ordered the prison to send Raistlen to a hospital for mental health evaluation and treatment. Then last year the judge ordered the prison to not return Raistlen to solitary.
We are very thankful for that outcome. Kept in solitary, Raistlen's story could have ended like James McCarthy's. Raistlen tried multiple times to kill himself. Now he has a chance at life.