Former prisoner on mission to change solitary confinement

ABC News’ Linsey Davis speaks with Anthony Gay, who spent 22 years in solitary confinement, and who’s now pushing to change the practice.
7:40 | 05/12/21

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Transcript for Former prisoner on mission to change solitary confinement
Across the country there are tens of thousands of Americans isolated and alone for most if not all of the day in a jail cell. Many of the convicted criminals are considered the worst of the worst but some in solitary confinement due to a series of events that led to harsh punishment. Including the man that you're about to meet he spent 22 years in isolation. And he's not a crusade to dramatically change this practice. It's do our own. It is cold is a dungeon psychologically anyway Doug Weight is Jim in a room it is very small images seem like the walls are caving. There is no sense if you do leaders now it is single ladies this is like anti football stadium bush on the other end of the spectrum. Is loud and chaotic like somebody took scored touchdowns. I was strapped zoo only sleep four hours a day. On everyone's allowed it might be sworn into yells like I'm ready to go outside so will we cut like dog saves and yeah there's four hours so boom but for the most part. I'm trapped in his CEO so the only way I was really able to engage with people didn't see other people and talks other people. And I gazes up. It was extraordinary idea yeah Conseco people bush. It was under each rating circumstances because I engaged is no harm but what I got out it was much different because I didn't happen. Did you beat street in order to have. Social stimulation you mean concept. It's estimated there 80000 Americans in solitary confinement on any giving day Antony tells us it nearly broke him. You talked about how it says serves as a psychological killer what is the worst part. The worst part is. The entrapped in his Seau. Owned swings force and then. Not being able to receive from social currents then you mean concept. When Anthony gay was twenty years old got into a street fight he's accused of stealing a hat and a one dollar bill. He was charged with aggravated battery and robbery. I had no idea. That I was about the need he. Tortured for gay didn't. In the state of Illinois there are six different classes for sentencing a felony offense each one carries a sentencing range to Barry's depending on the class. But for offense using classes one through form the judge has the option to sentence a defendant to a term of probation instead. So they were like if you can plead guilty. The robbery. You're dismissed agony you better so I'm think it I don't want to face force continues through a street fight. So I'll plead guilty to the robbery. Then he has for years probation. When I get one drop their car without a license I give went over and I get arrested him. My probation. And what used revolt. To drive without a license. And I did we say he's. He was re sentenced to seven years in prison but it was after a fight while serving had time that he was placed into solitary confinement. You had a fight and because of just a fight you end to solitary. And so get acting so punitive measures didn't appear. Underestimate. The value alone contact with other human beings. An estimated Libyan appropriate what are. I don't think people really understand and he had some people who don't share in other people are not just a waiter. It's really it is very devastating and brutal way of containing people out the breaks down the ability for people. Did you emotional regulation and to read appropriate social accused and then people act out. Because they're overwhelmed in their brain is flooded in their hippocampus is shrinking and when they act out then they get more time and so it becomes this like impossible cycle where people can't get out. I don't think there's an of dialogue about the consequences of what it's like for staff to look at humans in captivity every day and Tom look at what happens to ban when mayor and forcing these dehumanizing. Approaches to solitary confinement. Representative LeSean Ford is the Illinois house sponsor for the bill HB 3564. Also known as the Antony. We learned about Anthony geese. Situation and how it impacted him. Mentally and woody hit the due to get out of solitary confinement. It was devastating and he immediately. So it's not. Hard ten years in the making this bill would limit isolated confinement as well those allowing inmates to have access to certain activities while outside of their cell. We're rear from learning the news did stairs and when to be some form of solitary confinement is our job to make sure that you don't keep people. Locked away for over twenty years in the solid series Steve. Dennis harmful this dramatic and it only harms hum society as a whole. Because those people come back and they become our neighbors. And if you're an expert in the short present how they're oversized 64. Thank you chairman this bill is not to move has sickened more with the department. We're all of the witnesses who give him agreement. I do and decide what it is still doesn't doesn't do. It does not eliminate disagree segregation. It does not only department's ability to punish people. What it does do is say that. Every Christmas sales on it should be out of their sell at least four hours laboratories for hours and if they're going to Minnesota for more than four hours the limitation in his. Ten days or six mark. The bill passed through the house and is now on its way through the senate. Across the country similar bills are on the docket in multiple state legislatures. In March New York past the hole to act which limits time spent in solitary confinement to fifteen days. And Washington State in Connecticut advocates are looked as soon follow suit. For Anthony this is personal every day since his 2018 released he's been advocating for prison reform. For those who remain floundering in solitary confinement. You said sometimes you still cry at night. What's causing those tears. Until it is like to be here need torching. I know that meeting people are still being tortured. Did and I feel guilty because I got out and they didn't but I believe there. If we give you four more people and more people become aware that interest is in numbers and we can compare him to take a hard look it. This domestic terrorism this is psychological torture this is a crime against an eighty income didn't do something about. It's wrong Lindsay is is despicable in his horrible didn't exist. Our thanks to Anthony for sharing his story.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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