Being confined in prison is bad. Being stuck in solitary confinement is much worse. While science is able to document increasingly the terrible consequences to a human's psychological and physical beiing prisoers are sent to solitary more and more with each passing day. Notes the ACLU:
Over the last two decades corrections systems have increasingly relied on solitary confinement as a prison management tool – even building entire institutions called “supermax prisons” where prisoners are held in conditions of extreme isolation, sometimes for years or decades.
Imagine living twenty four hours a day in a room the size of a bathroom (actually is sort of a bathroom) with no contact with anyone...ever. Well, you might get to feel the hands of a guard as he jor she handcuffs you for one reason or another. You can stare at blank walls. You get no programs educational or otherwise. You might get a bible or a few books, maybe, if you are lucky. You might get 30 to 60 minutes to roam around a small outdoor space by your self every day. Solitary confinement often simply breaks a person's will to live. At least half of all prison suicides in the US occur among the 3 to 8 per cent of the prison population who are held in solitary confinement at any one time.
“People go crazy here in lockdown. People who weren’t violent become violent and do strange things. This is a city within a city, another world inside of a larger one where people could care less about what goes on in here. This is an alternate world of hate, pain, and mistreatment.”
It seems to me obvious that solitary confinement is cruel and unusual.
According to New Sicentist magazine:
Recent reviews of the literature highlight a daunting range of harmful psychological consequences in prisoners held in isolation for more than 10 days. They include panic attacks, anxiety, loss of control, excessive anger, paranoia, hallucinations, depression, insomnia, self-mutilation and psychosis ( and , vol 34, p 441). , vol 33, p 760
Psychologists agree the problem is worse than prison officials recognise. Various studies have found that between 22 and 45 per cent of supermax inmates suffer from serious mental illness, marked psychological symptoms, psychological breakdown or brain damage () – though it is not always clear what proportion were ill before being locked up. , vol 35, p 985
Moreover, there is considerable variation in the degree of suffering and how quickly victims succumb – and how well they recover. Terry Kupers, a psychiatrist at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, California, who has served as an expert witness in several class-action lawsuits on prison conditions, says some develop serious psychological problems after a few days or weeks; others cope for months, then suddenly experience massive anxiety or paranoia. Social rehabilitation treatment can help recovery, but "the longer the solitary confinement, the more damaged the prisoner and the worse the prognosis in terms of mental health".
There are, of course, physical effects of this torture as well. A study way back in 1986 lists gastro-intestinal, cardiovascular and genito-urinary problems, migraine headaches and profound fatigue. Other studies document the following additoanl physical symptoms:
- Heart palpitations (awareness of strong and/or rapid heartbeat while at rest)
- Diaphoresis (sudden excessive sweating)
- Back and other joint pains
- Deterioration of eyesight
- Poor appetite, weight loss and sometimes diarrhoea
- Lethargy, weakness
- Tremulousness (shaking)
- Feeling cold
- Aggravation of pre-existing medical problems.
In the United States, approximately 100,000 prisoners are living this way today.
We are living in the 21st Century, but the State is carrying out punishments more characteristic of the dark ages.
The following comes from Solitary Watch.
On Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 1440 hours I was summoned to the cell of Inmate Machado…by Registered Nurse…Upon looking in the cell window, I observed a noose hanging from the air duct. I observed the No-Tear Mattress lying on the cell floor torn apart. I ordered Machado to submit to handcuffs, to which he complied. After handcuffing Machado I placed him in holding cell #136 so Dr. N could speak with him. I returned to cell 188 and observed feces smeared on the right wall. It appears Machado had torn off the outer layer of the mattress, fashioned a noose from it, and tied the noose to the vent…
You were endorsed by the CSR on 02/04/10 to serve an indeterminate SHU term, due to your validation as an Associate of the …prison gang…On 06/22/11, your Mental Health Level of Care (LOC) was elevated to Correctional Clinical Case Management (CCCMS), PBSP-SHU Exclusionary; therefore, your placement in PBSP-SHU is no longer appropriate. Due to the above, on 06/22/11, a decision was made to place you in the PBSP Administrative Segregation Unit. Single celled due to prison gang validation.
I was handcuffed in a cell and was being watched by two officers I never seen before…I was handcuffed for what seemed like an eternity. I felt like I was in that room handcuffed for days but it was only an hour…the shooting in my case flashed in my mind and they suggested I died that day in the shooting and that I was now in ‘purgatory’ or in ‘Dantes Inferno.’ I felt trapped. I thought I was condemned to be handcuffed in that cell forever. They made me believe I was killed in real life. I thought I was caught in another realm. I saw insects in the cell and demons. It was way out I don’t know what happened…