Solitary confinement is a type of imprisonment wherein a person lives in a single cell with
little or no contact with other inmates. The inmates are restricted to the area spending 23 hours a
day inside. There is no limit to the amount of days one can spend in solitary confinement and it
has an extremely negative effect on the incarcerated persons’ mental health. Solitary confinement is an
inhumane punishment to experience.
The cells are typically 8ft. by 10 ft. without any windows or means to look outside of the
small space. Cells can be compared to small bathrooms, but with a bed and no sunlight. It can be
a dark and grim place with cement walls. The only time an inmate would have human interaction
would be with a correctional officer giving him or her food.
Around 80,000 people are currently in solitary confinement in the United States of America,
according to records and data. These people are most likely experiencing depression, anxiety,
anger and irritability. In extreme cases or in people who have spent long periods of time in
solitary confinement, they can be presented with problems like paranoia, hallucinations and
self harm. If a person had preexisting mental health problems, those issues will worsen in
solitary confinement. It is not natural or healthy for a person to be completely alone and in a
small space for any extended period of time.
Some people may feel that if a person is in prison and does something to cause themselves to
be in that position that it is just or right. However, solitary confinement does not rehabilitate bad
behavior, it only worsens a person’s mental state of mind. After being in solitary confinement, it is hard for people to readjust to being around others and hypersensitivity to sounds and smells are a common problem. It also costs three times as much to keep inmates in solitary confinement versus inmates being in general population as recognized in state and federal budgets.
Solitary confinement should be made illegal for a multitude of reasons, but chiefly because it
is inhumane. No one should be caged like an animal for any reason. There should be a standard
of treatment even in the prison system. Placing a person in solitary confinement is one of the
worst things that is done to inmates.
In court cases it has been argued that solitary confinement violates the Eighth Amendment to
the United States Constitution. The amendment bans cruel and unusual punishment. There hasn’t
been full success in the argument because “cruel and unusual” is a gray area and is subjective.
However, the data found behind solitary confinement’s negative effect, solidify that it is in fact a
cruel and unusual punishment.
The United Nations Committee Against Torture stated that “full isolation for 22 to 23 hours a
day in prison is unacceptable.” The United Nations has also banned the use of solitary
confinement for longer than 15 days. New York State has banned confinement for more than 15
days, but it should be illegal completely. Yes, more states should follow New York’s policy to take
a step in the right direction.
A difference can be made by taking action. Lisa Blunt Rochester (Delaware’s
State Representative) can be contacted and urged to write to the legislature about how inhumane
solitary confinement is. John Carney (Delaware’s Governor) can be contacted because he
appoints the heads of the state’s prison systems. Lastly, the American Civil Liberties Union
handles Prisoners Rights and is a great resource to make a change and have your voice to be
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