Brittany Hailer reports on mental health, addiction and incarceration for PublicSource. For her stories of people affected by the opioid epidemic, she received a 2019 Golden Quill Award from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania and a Robert L. Vann Award of Excellence for investigative/enterprise reporting from the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation.
In 2018, Brittany was selected to be a Justice Reporting Fellow as part of the John Jay/Langeloth Foundation Fellowship on “Reinventing Solitary Confinement.”
Her memoir and poetry collection "Animal You'll Surely Become" was published by Tolsun Books in 2018 as well. She’s taught creative writing classes at the Allegheny County Jail and Sojourner House as part of Chatham’s Words Without Walls program and now teaches creative writing and journalism at the University of Pittsburgh. She graduated with a master’s in fine arts from Chatham University.
Zita Iwuoha is a midwife whose mission to save black mothers and babies began in Nigeria, but once she realized that black mothers in Allegheny County were facing a similar reality, she began to expand her scope.
In the past six years, KeAnna experienced the deaths of two partners — both heart attacks. She lost housing and couldn’t keep her job in child care while also making sure her own children were cared for. She recently found a job in home health care that pays roughly $7.50 an hour. This is low-wage living.
Under the nonprofit’s “no-show” attendance policy, clients get discharged from services if they miss three appointments in six months. This policy is not new, but PERSAD only began reviewing the policy with patients and asking them to sign it in the fall. And concern over this policy is not the only upheaval occurring at PERSAD.
Editor's note: This story is part of a three-part series about Pennsylvania's use of solitary confinement and the effects it has on inmates who endure it. The focus on this topic is the result of the reporter's participation in the 2018 John Jay/Langeloth Foundation Fellowship on “Reinventing Solitary Confinement.”
Raymond Miles served 16 months in solitary confinement at the State Correctional Institution in Somerset — 16 months of cinder-block walls, constant noise, filth and little contact with other humans. Some days, Ray says he was locked in a full 24 hours. The time in solitary, which started in 2006, changed his life forever. Years later, he says he’s still coping.
Solitary confinement can affect brain activity within hours. People who experience the isolation can deteriorate and, especially for those with mental illness, the effects can be profound and even irreversible.