Solitary Confinement and the Psychological Impacts
Melissa St. Onge
The punishment of prisoners through solitary confinement is common in most of the correctional facilities in the United States. The use of solitary confinement stretches back to the early days of civilization and has been adopted practice that is used in a majority of the correctional facilities in the country. The practice involves putting a convict in closed cells for over twenty-four hours, denying the person in confinement any form of human contact (socialization) and even sunlight. The aim is to punish and discipline the victim or for torture and protective reasons by making a deliberate choice to deny them all forms of socialization for a duration deemed fit by the administrators (Miller, 2010). Data gathered indicate that currently there are estimably about a hundred thousand people put in solitary confinement among the total prisoners in the correctional facilities and that excludes the likely number that is under juvenile custody and military facilities (Reiter, 2012).
Some of the prerequisites and reasons to qualify a convict to be put in the solitary confinement includes ignoring rules as well as orders from the officers, possession of contraband materials, or acts of substance possession or use. Some medical conditions such as mental illnesses can also send one into isolation along with behavioral truancies like rape of other inmates (Miller, 2010). In most situations, the solitary cells are used as tools of repression on the convicts who are not yielding to the disciplinary requirements and rules of the set correctional center that they find themselves in (Reiter, 2012). Solitary confinement is a justified means of handling challenging security situations in the correctional facilities, but it comes with lots of challenges such as who justly qualifies and deserves treatments of isolation.
Heated political debates have addressed the application of solitary confinement even at national platforms such as Congress. The United States has the record highest number of incarcerated criminals put in solitary confinements in the developed economies and democratic worlds as per the statics from the correctional department (Reiter, 2012). The mentioned debates are centred and revolve around the question whether the use of solitary confinement on convicts is a justified step or whether its detriments outweigh the purported advantages. The tough on crime culture adopted by policymakers regarding the best correctional actions that should be taken against the capital offenders gave birth to the practise of solitary confinement. Others of televisions drama “Orange is the New Black” in conjunction with Congress is behind the debate and the push to get rid of solitary confinement due to the controversial impacts it has on its subjects.
The ideas behind the implementation of the use of solitary confinements or individual housing units as referred to by most correctional units are to inspire remorse and give the subjects lone moments to contemplate. Contrary to the noble intentions, the outcomes of the usage of solitary confinements have been nothing other than inspiring violence in the inmates and as witnessed in most cases, driving them crazy and insane. The use of solitary confinements in the United States penitentiaries has been on an intermittent and seasonal pattern up until its rise came in the late 1980s when the war against drugs and gang of criminals increased in the prisons (Smith, 2014). The congressional recommendations to tough sentencing and led to use of isolation rooms within the cells increased consequently, and the necessity was due to the fact that most of the prisons were packed to full capacity and some even beyond capacity.
There are adverse psychological impacts of solitary confinement as observed and told from some of the people subjected to solitary confinements. It is an expensive endeavors for the state’s correctional unit as it costs presumably sixty thousands of the taxpayers money, three times more costly than the costs of housing a regular inmate.one of the confirmed psychological impacts of solitary confinement is that it induces conditions of depression and psychological hypersensitivity (Grassian, 2015). The study conducted at the Pelican Bay prison shows that the confinements induce states of anxiety characterized by acts of hallucinations cognitive defects and trauma. Acts of paranoia and panic attacks were also some of the reported findings of the study while some prisoners said they experienced nightmares and heart palpitations. In the same prison, careful observations revealed that the prisoners suffered from troubled sleeping, prompting anger and violent fantasies (Grassian, 2015).
Medical doctors researching the impacts that isolations have also diagnosed their patients with chronic and overwhelming feelings of sadness leaving them depressed and pessimistic about their situations. The solitary cells also inspire nervousness among the subjects and further induces suicidal thoughts among the prison members. Long-term impacts on the prisoners in the report indicate that the prisoners suffered multiple brain mulch and retardation at the end of their terms in the isolated housing units (Smith, 2014). Some of the prisoners embark on an active course of imbalance of emotions and discourse in their trajectory that finally makes their sanity to decompensate. As a result, they instead the induce the conditions of mental illnesses which in return require the patients to be put in isolation to keep others safe.
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Grassian, S. (2015). Psychiatric effects of solitary confinement. Wash. UJL ; Pol’y, 22, 325.
Miller, N. D. (2010). International protection of the rights of prisoners: Is solitary confinement in the United States a violation of international standards? Cal. W. Int’l LJ, 26, 139.
Reiter, K. A. (2012). The most restrictive alternative: A litigation history of solitary confinement in US Prisons, 1960–2006. In Studies in Law, Politics, and Society (pp. 71-124). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Smith, P. S. (2014). The effects of solitary confinement on prison inmates: A brief history and review of the literature. Crime and justice, 34(1), 441-528