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Solitary Confinement Is Cruel and Ineffective

Posted by on Jul. 29, 2013 at 10:34 PM
  • 30 Replies


solitary confinement, cruel and unusual punishment, solitary,


Isolating inmates inflicts permanent mental harm. The practice must be curbed


July 29, 2013

Some 80,000 people are held in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, according to the latest available census. The practice has grown with seemingly little thought to how isolation affects a person's psyche. But new research suggests that solitary confinement creates more violence both inside and outside prison walls.

Prisoners in solitary confinement—also known as administrative segregation—spend 22 to 24 hours a day in small, featureless cells. Contact with other humans is practically nonexistent. Because solitary confinement widely occurs at the discretion of prison administration, many inmates spend years, even decades, cut off from any real social interaction. More than 500 of the prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison in California, for example, have been in isolation units for over a decade, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

You might assume all inmates sent to solitary are the “worst of the worst”—rapists and murderers who continue their violent ways even behind bars. But in fact, many are placed in solitary for nonviolent offenses, and some are not even criminals, having been arrested on immigration charges. Others are thrown into isolation cells “for their own protection” because they are homosexual or transgendered or have been raped by other inmates.

Whatever the reasons, such extreme isolation and sensory deprivation can take a severe, sometimes permanent, toll on emotional and mental health. Researchers have found that prisoners in solitary quickly become withdrawn, hypersensitive to sights and sounds, paranoid, and more prone to violence and hallucinations. Craig Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has documented several cases of individuals with no prior history of mental illness who nonetheless developed paranoid psychosis requiring medical treatment after prolonged solitary confinement. As damaging as the consequences are for otherwise healthy adults, they are even worse for adolescents, whose brains are still in their final stages of development, and the mentally ill, who already struggle to maintain a solid grasp on reality. About half of all prison suicides occur in isolation cells.

The U.S. justice system once understood that long stretches in solitary served no good purpose. In 1890 the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the pernicious nature of solitary confinement in the case of a man who had murdered his wife. In their decision, the justices noted that “a considerable number of the prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others still committed suicide, while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community.”

Nearly a century later this wisdom was all but lost. The use of solitary grew in the 1980s after white supremacists murdered two prison guards in the federal penitentiary at Marion, Ill. Officials responded by placing the entire facility on permanent lockdown. What started out as a stop-gap measure to address prison violence soon became institutionalized; so-called supermax prisons were built that encased all inmates in solitary cells whose only window was often just the slot for food found in the steel door.

Yet strangely, no one knows if segregating prisoners reduces violence. Indeed, evidence suggests that the opposite is true. After the state of Mississippi reduced the number of prisoners in solitary confinement at its Parchman facility and developed new units for prisoners with mental illness, the number of violent attacks plummeted from a high of 45 in March 2006 to five in January 2008. (Mississippi also saved more than $5 million.) A 2007 study of Washington State's prison population found that 69 percent of those who were released directly to the community from solitary—a dishearteningly regular practice—committed new crimes that landed them back in jail within three years, compared with 46 percent of those who had been allowed to readjust to the general prison population before release.

Solitary confinement is not only cruel, it is counterproductive. The U.S. should reclaim the wisdom it once held and dramatically limit the practice.


http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=solitary-confinement-cruel-ineffective-unusual

by on Jul. 29, 2013 at 10:34 PM
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Replies (1-10):
IhartU
by Bronze Member on Jul. 30, 2013 at 8:45 AM
2 moms liked this

I believe the old school way of chaining them to a wall and giving them bread and water was better. Seriously. Why coddle them and treat them like kings in jail? No wonder so many of them are repeat offenders- they have it good in there.

SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Jul. 30, 2013 at 2:49 PM

BUMP!

garnet83
by Member on Jul. 30, 2013 at 4:16 PM

I prefer it over them having tv privileges and working out in a gym on tax payer dollars. No, I have no sympathy for people who break the law.

SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Jul. 30, 2013 at 4:24 PM

Come on. Reread the article. Just don't put them in solitary - with no contact with people. That's all they are saying here.


Quoting garnet83:

I prefer it over them having tv privileges and working out in a gym on tax payer dollars. No, I have no sympathy for people who break the law.



miss_maya
by Member on Jul. 30, 2013 at 4:50 PM
2 moms liked this


Quoting garnet83:

I prefer it over them having tv privileges and working out in a gym on tax payer dollars. No, I have no sympathy for people who break the law.

What if it is an unjust law?  An arbitrary law?  A minor law?  A law that breaking harms no one but the person breaking it? What if it is a law that you disagree with?  Or is that not possible, should everyone just respect whatever laws are made because only good laws are made?

Do people who break laws not have the ability to regret doing so?  To repent or reform?  Are they not still people? 

Hopefully no law will be made that you disagree with enough to break.  Hopefully you will never be down on your luck so much that breaking the law becomes the only option you can see for yourself to get by.  Hopefully you will never get caught up in a situation where you may not even realize you are breaking a law.  Hopefully you will never be in a situation where breaking a law is the only way to protect yourself or someone you love.  Hopefully you will never get caught for the hundreds of laws you will probably break in your lifetime due to the sheer volume of laws we have, many of which are nothing but arbitrary rules designed to keep someone else in wealth or power.  It would be a shame for someone to have to waste any sympathy or tax dollars on you for breaking a law, because clearly, anyone who breaks a law is simply undeserving of either....

garnet83
by Member on Jul. 30, 2013 at 4:55 PM

 


Quoting miss_maya:


Quoting garnet83:

I prefer it over them having tv privileges and working out in a gym on tax payer dollars. No, I have no sympathy for people who break the law.

What if it is an unjust law?  An arbitrary law?  A minor law?  A law that breaking harms no one but the person breaking it? What if it is a law that you disagree with?  Or is that not possible, should everyone just respect whatever laws are made because only good laws are made?

Do people who break laws not have the ability to regret doing so?  To repent or reform?  Are they not still people? 

Hopefully no law will be made that you disagree with enough to break.  Hopefully you will never be down on your luck so much that breaking the law becomes the only option you can see for yourself to get by.  Hopefully you will never get caught up in a situation where you may not even realize you are breaking a law.  Hopefully you will never be in a situation where breaking a law is the only way to protect yourself or someone you love.  Hopefully you will never get caught for the hundreds of laws you will probably break in your lifetime due to the sheer volume of laws we have, many of which are nothing but arbitrary rules designed to keep someone else in wealth or power.  It would be a shame for someone to have to waste any sympathy or tax dollars on you for breaking a law, because clearly, anyone who breaks a law is simply undeserving of either....

There are already laws I disagree with but I abide by them because they are still the law whether I like or not. I do not attempt to justify wrong doing for myself or anyone else. Abide by the laws. It's not that hard.

 

JanuaryBaby06
by Gold Member on Jul. 30, 2013 at 4:58 PM
1 mom liked this

good article, i agree. the practice shoud indeed be  rare occurence.

SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Jul. 30, 2013 at 5:00 PM
1 mom liked this

Thanks for actually reading the article.  :)

People replying seem to think it's about gyms and TVs. It's about contact with PEOPLE. I can totally see how someone would develop mental illness from not being around people. We are social beings.


Quoting JanuaryBaby06:

good article, i agree. the practice shoud indeed be  rare occurence.



stringtheory
by Bronze Member on Jul. 30, 2013 at 5:01 PM
1 mom liked this
Solitary confinement for YEARS is absurd and ineffectual. It means NO contact with other humans. You don't have to coddle someone to avoid driving already troubled individuals insane.
stringtheory
by Bronze Member on Jul. 30, 2013 at 5:02 PM
1 mom liked this
I agree with you on this one :-)Who'd ave thunk.

Quoting SallyMJ:

Thanks for actually reading the article.  :)

People replying seem to think it's about gyms and TVs. It's about contact with PEOPLE. I can totally see how someone would develop mental illness from not being around people. We are social beings.



Quoting JanuaryBaby06:

good article, i agree. the practice shoud indeed be  rare occurence.




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