Criticism Surrounds Solitary Confinement

There are prisons located throughout the world. The all have methods, techniques, and policies that can vary greatly country to country. One thing the majority of them have in common is some sort of solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is a controversial practice that has been met with criticism for nearly 150 years.

What Is Solitary Confinement

Solitary confinement is a form of imprisonment where a prisoner is isolated, or confined, in one cell by themselves with little to no contact with anyone except prison staff. They are kept in this cell anywhere between 22 and 24 hours every day. Prisoners are put in solitary confinement as a punitive consequence. Prisoners are also put in solitary confinement as a security measure. Certain high risk criminal populations, such as those who have committed crimes against children, must be isolated from the general population as a protective measure. Prisoners that demonstrate suicidal tendencies are also typically confined to solitary confinement in order to control the dangers of the environment.

Negative Effects

Even though several view solitary confinement as a necessary evil, much criticism has circled around the negative psychological effect of the practice. The negative psychological consequences have presented themselves in individuals without any prior mental health issues. In one case, an otherwise mentally healthy prisoner suffered from Ganser syndrome as a result of solitary confinement. Ganser syndrome will cause a person to essentially lose touch with reality. Those suffering from Ganser syndrome are no longer able to form coherent sentences or complete simple actions. It has been given the moniker of the nonsense syndrome. Those with existing mental health issues typically will see an increase in the severity of the issues. The effects are especially detrimental on juveniles.

History of Negative Effects

No one can be certain how long solitary confinement has been a form of imprisonment. What is known is that the negative effects and controversy of the method has been documented at least since 1829. This is when officials at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania first begin to document the debilitating psychological effects of this type of confinement. It would again be documented in 1890 by the United States Supreme Court. The detrimental effects would also be documented in other parts of the world. The Denmark Institute would record the psychological effects from this type of confinement from 1870 through 1920. Still to this day the Academy of Psychiatry continues to monitor and record the negative effects solitary confinement has on the psyche of prisoners.