Some of the prisoners in the study were in solitary confinement for three or more continuous years.
A new study released from Yale Law School and the Association of State Correctional Administrators casts doubt on the efficacy of solitary confinement. As many criminal justice experts have claimed for a long time, the report finds that solitary confinement may cause irreversible mental health problems for prisoners forced to endure solitude for lengthy periods of time. The study also says that the practice of placing “problem” inmates in solitary confinement doesn’t really make prisons safer.
Solitary confinement goes by a number of terms, including “the hole,” “the box,” and “the cell.” In prisons, inmates usually know what types of behaviors will land them in solitary confinement. The punishment is reserved for the gravest offenses, and guards frequently use the threat of solitary to prevent prisoners from acting out or getting into trouble.
Study Says Solitary Does Not Work
The study examined data from 48 jurisdictions, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia, and 45 state prison systems. Altogether, the jurisdictions study represented 96 percent of prisoners in the state and federal prison systems.
According to the study, over 67,400 prisoners were kept in solitary confinement for 22 hours or more each day for at least 15 days in a row. Some of the prisoners in the study spent up to three months in solitary, and 11 percent were in solitary confinement for three or more continuous years.
An outspoken advocate for reforming the use of solitary confinement—who also serves as the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections—says that solitary confinement as it is used now does not work. Instead, he wishes to see it used rarely, if at all. When it’s used, he also says it should be accompanied by support services for inmates.
In some prisons, solitary cells are just seven-by-13 feet in size, with some solitary cells lacking windows. Prison reform experts say that placing a mentally ill individual in such a cell can exacerbate their condition, leading to long-term damage.
Solitary Confinement Can Cause Mental Illness
Other studies have shown that solitary confinement puts inmates “at grave risk of psychological harm” and can even lead to madness when inmates are locked in a small cell and forced to endure continuous hours of no human contact or mental stimulation. Inmates have suffered paranoia, panic attacks, depression, and even hallucinations.
Dallas criminal defense lawyer Clint Broden says, “Texas has one of the highest prison populations per capita in the country. It’s important for prisons to put policies in place that have a goal of rehabilitation. No one should experience psychological or physical harm in prison.”
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SOURCE: Broden & Mickelsen