The National Prisons Group, a penal oversight organization, is recommending changes for national accreditation standards for solitary confinement. There are various proposals including health care for mentally ill inmates placed in isolation, increased time out of cells for recreation and education, and mandatory health care visits for all inmates in solitary confinement.
The United States is number one for the most inmates ( 80,000 inmates) held in solitary confinement. Prisoners in isolation are confined to small cells, six feet by nine feet, without windows–unlike the cell in the above picture, with little to no access to the outside world for many months and even years. Inmates are confined to these cells for 23 hours a day. Such extreme isolation has serious psychological effects on inmates who will eventually be released to their community. According to several state studies, fifty percent of prison suicides occur in solitary confinement.
In 2015, the Association of State Correctional Administrators issued a report stating that prolonged isolation of inmates is– “a grave problem in the United States.”Various states have finally realized the gravity of this punishment and have made changes in their use of solitary confinement.
A 2014 Colorado law has prohibited solitary confinement for inmates with serious mental illnesses. This new law was approved after the fatal 2013 shooting of Tom Clements, then the state’s prisons director. He was shot by a former inmate who was released after spending the majority his sentence in isolation.
Pennsylvania’s policy with respect to serious mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement changed in 2015 as a result of a settlement between the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania. Many of the Pennsylvania inmates had been placed in solitary confinement for behavioral issues which were caused by their severe mental illnesses.
Pennsylvania inmates had been confined to a minimum of twenty three hours a day in isolated cells. The solitary confinement would often aggravate and intensify the mental diseases. Inmates considered dangerous to staff and other inmates will now have a minimum of twenty hours a week outside of their cells under strict supervision.
Colorado, Mississippi and Washington have also made major changes regarding their use of long-term solitary confinement.
It is common sense that inmates who have violate minor rules or who found with drugs should not be placed in solitary confinement. Addicted inmates need drug programs and not additional punishment.
Gary Mohr, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction stated that inmates sentenced to solitary confinement should be inmates, “we’re afraid of, not mad at.”
Fyodor Dostoevsky: “You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners”.
By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com