Solitary confinement is a form of punishment found in the United States federal prisons system as well as many other systems around the world. It is also found in many state run facilities within the U.S. The incarceration of people as a form of punishment and rehabilitation has been the subject of intense debate for as long as anyone can remember. Solitary confinement adds a whole other dimension to the argument.
The effects of solitary confinement are not fully understood but early indications are that it is not good for the human mind. Prolonged periods of isolation from other people can have long lasting and detrimental impacts on the human brain.
What is Solitary Confinement?
This form of punishment is where a prisoner or inmate is restricted access to human contact for 23 hours per day with the exception of contact from prison staff. In some cases the amount of hours each day may be lower at 22.
In the hours the prisoner is not in their cell, they are allowed time for recreation in a larger enclosed room away from other prisoners. They are also allowed time for showering 1-2 times per week.
Why Do People Go To Solitary Confinement?
There are a few different reasons people are placed in solitary confinement. In rare cases, prisoners may start a prison sentence in solitary confinement. Most of the time however, this status is assigned based on prisoners violating prison rules, if they are a danger to themselves or others, or if they are considered a member of a vulnerable class of inmates.
Vulnerable inmates include people who were once a part of gangs and have left and/or provided information to authorities about the gang, people convicted of certain crimes considered taboo by other prisoners, or for violating other guidelines.
What are the Effects of Solitary Confinement?
Many studies have been performed on the prison system’s ability to reform inmates. Studies done on the sub-category of prisoners in solitary confinement or administrative segregation show that the stresses of such confinement are brutal on the human psyche.
People subjected to long periods of solitary confinement often experience severe anxiety issues, depression, suicidal tendencies, and other mental health issues. These symptoms are exacerbated in prisoners who already exhibited mental health defects or impaired mental capabilities before the period of solitary confinement began.
As a form of punishment, solitary confinement is effective however as a form of rehabilitation, the practice is extremely inhuman and some would say barbaric.