Terri Clark now works in politics and has served on the 12th District 20th Ward Democratic Committee since May. (Photo by Kat Procyk/PublicSource)

I spent 17 days in solitary for having two onions in my cell. The isolation changed me.

Compelling personal stories
told by the people living them. I served roughly 16 years in the Muncy State Correctional Institution for possession with intent to deliver crack cocaine. All those years in prison pale in comparison to the 17 days I spent in solitary in 1992. Only two months into my time, I was sent to the segregated housing unit [the SHU]. My infraction: I had two onions in my room.

Raymond Miles served 16 months in solitary confinement at the State Correctional Institution in Somerset. The time in solitary, which started in 2006, changed his life forever. (Photo by Yeshua David/PublicSource)

Panic, retreat, misery: For Ray, 16 months in solitary confinement has had lasting effects

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.

Don Carter (left), director of the Remaking Cities Institute, and Alan Mallach, an expert in community development. (Photo by Mark Kramer/PublicSource)

What’s even more alarming than gentrification? One researcher urges cities like Pittsburgh to take a broader view.

Community development guru Alan Mallach points to the rise of “eds and meds” and the influx of young, educated professionals into urban areas as major trends that have transformed Pittsburgh and other American cities over the last two decades, bringing investment and jobs to many declining neighborhoods. “Taken as a whole, American cities, particularly older cities, are doing better than at any point really since the 1960s,” he said at a lecture Tuesday evening at Carnegie Mellon University. “This is an amazing revival, and it’s worth celebrating.”

He’s quick to note, though, that such progress is only half the story: “At the same time, for people who live in those cities, more of them are living in poverty, more of them are living in substandard housing and in neighborhoods that do not provide a decent quality of life. At the same time that our cities are drawing thousands of jobs and billions in new investment, more people live in these cities who lack jobs and opportunities.”

In Pittsburgh, young professionals are moving into such neighborhoods as Lawrenceville, East Liberty and the South Side, driving a surge in development, while long-time residents are leaving. Fewer people are living in predominantly white working-class and black neighborhoods, such as Homewood and the Hill District, and those who do are, on average, lower income and older.

Why one of three Pittsburgh-area groups offering refugee resettlement is ending the service

Changes to federal immigration policy under the Trump administration have prompted one of three Pittsburgh-area nonprofits that provide refugee resettlement to end those services.

The federal government announced in September that the United States in fiscal year 2019 will accept only 30,000 people fleeing persecution — the lowest level since the creation of the U.S. Refugee Act in 1980. The reduced cap this year and for next year translates into fewer refugees entering te region and a decline in funding, which contributed to the Sharpsburg-based Northern Area Multi-Services Agency [NAMS] deciding to shutter its refugee resettlement services.