Solitary Confinement Treatment of Prisoners
Solitary Confinement Treatment of Prisoners
The Eighth Amendment of United States Constitution offers protection to individuals against what it refers to cruel and unusual punishment especially within the confines of penitentiary walls. Under this provision, no individual is allowed to be placed under incarceration unless he or she is suffering a reasonably serious harm and that the prison officials acted in a manner that showed “in deliberate indifference to the prisoner’s health and safety” (Shames et al., 10). The officers must show that the individual in question is facing some substantial risk to a serious harm. Regardless of how one may look at it, the human rights activists across the world and within the United States have all agitated against the policy that allows this form of confinement to a citizen of America. While the intention of officers may be reasonable especially when the safety of the prisoners is concerned, the excessively long hours of over 23 hours in a six by ten feet room is beyond reproach and understanding. In this respect, the present paper aims to factor in the pros and cons of this policy of solitary confinement and give a position at the end. The paper asserts that, excessive solitary confinement should be abolished and made to pass through stages of an evidence-based approach for effective behavior correction.
The major proponents of this approach believe that, it has the benefit of keeping prisoners safe especially from fellow prisoners. According to Lombardo (p.1), this form of confinement occurs when a prisoner is being considered as a witness to a particular criminal case and therefore they must be protected from those who may wish to harm them. Also, in the mid-20th Century, prisoners that had different sexual orientation were kept safe from other prisoners. For instance, transgender, gay, and lesbians needed to be kept safe because if they mixed with other prisoners, the chances of them getting into fights with them were always high. A police officer who is convicted faces huge risks from fellow prisoners and therefore a special unit is made for them so as to safeguard their lives from fellow hardcore prisoners.
Although debatable, proponents of solitary confinement believe that it has the effect of changing behavior for the disgruntled inmates. In other words, when an individual is confined in a room with only a Bible as the only book to read or a Quran, the chances that they will read it and reflect on what they have read within their subconscious are extremely high (Lombardo,1). As a result, they will always conform to the teachings and change their conduct for good.
The Human rights committee and the Committee against Torture as well as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, all agree that solitary confinement amounts to excessive torture on an individual especially when isolation is involved (Metzner and Fellner, 105). Just like what the federal courts pointed out in 2010, they believe that, isolating a mentally ill individual for over 23 hours in a room with limited access to light and fellow inmates is like putting an asthma patient in a room without any form of ventilation. The condition is in violation of the Eighth amendment which strikes most officials to remain calm in the face of a disgruntled prisoner.
Solitary confinement has the effect of increasing mental disorder within patients. Proponents of this approach believe that confinement makes prisoners reflect on their conduct and thereafter emerge stronger but in reality, the effects of this form of isolation are grievous (Lombardo,1). For the record, the stress and lack of social contact and the degree of unstructured days can always exacerbate the symptoms of mental illnesses and thereafter lead to a recurrence and not a cure (Metzner and Fellner, 105).
Other than disease recurrence isolation has the effect of increasing anxiety disorders in patients such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anger and most importantly psychosis and paranoia. The levels of obsessive thoughts also increase making the situation even worse than what was before the exercise started. There are other mental disorders that result from an excessive confinement of a prisoner including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, among others. Most importantly the behavior of these individuals does not change even after constant confinement.
New York State most recently abolished solitary confinement after a series of deliberations for the juveniles and those below 21 years. Together with Colorado states, New York introduced both a four hour and five hour rest period respectively, for the solitarily confined inmates so as to reduce the effects of excessive isolation. The State of Washington together with New Mexico has introduced a step-down program for gang members in confinement. The approach is good because it not only limits solitary confinement but also provides an evidence-based approach to disciplining the gang groups who pose a threat to others. The steps allow the groups to work through different stages over several months so that they can assimilate freely with other inmates.
In this regard, it is clear that solitary confinement is torturous and should not be used at any given moment. Instead, states have to ensure that correction facilities adhere to six-step provision where gang groups and other members of the prison face serious safety problems. They should be taken through steps so that they can learn on how to associate with other inmates peacefully after several months of training and work. Solitary confinement should not be used at any given moment unless the conditions are beyond what the inmates can control.
Lombardo, Crystal. Pros and Cons of Solitary Confinement. Vision Launch, 2016.Web.
Metzner, Jeffrey, L. & Fellner, Jamie. Solitary Confinement and Mental Illness in U.S. Prisons: A Challenge for Medical Ethics. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, 38, (2010): 104-108. Print.
Shames, Alison, Wilcox Jessa & Subramanian, Ram. Solitary Confinement: Common Misconceptions and Emerging Safe Alternatives. Vera Institute of Justice, 2015. Print