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United States: Solitary Confinement



According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are more than 80,000 men, women, and children in solitary confinement in prisons across the United States, .

Solitary confinement is a controversial subject throughout the United States. Texas officials have argued, that solitary confinement is required to protect inmates and officers from violent offenders. To put solitary confinement in a better light, they labeled solitary confinement—administration segregation.

The American Friends Service Committee has reported that solitary confinement conditions vary from state to state and among correctional facilities, but most include the following policies and conditions:

  • Confinement behind a solid steel door for 22 to 24 hours a day
  • Severely limited contact with other human beings
  • Infrequent phone calls and rare non-contact family visits
  • Extremely limited access to rehabilitative or educational programming
  • Grossly inadequate medical and mental health treatment
  • Restricted reading material and personal property
  • Physical torture such as hog-tying, restraint chairs, forced cell extraction
  • “No-touch torture,” such as sensory deprivation, permanent bright lighting, extreme temperatures, and forced insomnia
  • Chemical torture, such as stun grenades and stun guns
  • Sexual intimidation and other forms of brutality and humiliation

Opponents of solitary confinement emphasize that its use, can harm inmates with mental health issues. Not all inmates are in solitary confinement, because they are considered dangerous. A substantial number of inmates are placed in solitary confinement, as a result of failed drug tests and administration violations.

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.

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.

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.

In 2015, the Department of Corrections and the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania reached a settlement regarding the use of solitary confinement. Before the settlement, Pennsylvania inmates were  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 their mental diseases. Inmates in solitary confinement, now have a minimum of twenty hours a week, outside of their cells, under strict supervision.

It is common sense that inmates, who have violated minor rules or inmates found with drugs, should not be placed in solitary confinement. Mentally ill inmates need treatment and addicted inmates need drug programs–not additional punishment-solitary confinement.

Fyodor Dostoevsky: “You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners”.

By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of
Prison Consultant

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Minnie garrow
Minnie garrow

Every incident of solitary confinement should be investigated thoroughly before subjecting inmates to extra and extreme punishment above and beyond what the courts’ sentences have been ruled. Some corrections personnel abuse their discretionary powers to helpless imprisoned humans causing a reaction. If deemed abusive by a investigation, the personnel should be open to “wrongful and abusive” treatment penalties and sentencing guidelines should be affected. Abusing a caged human is not legal.