Why Solitary Confinement Is Inhumane


Imagine yourself huddled in the corner in a room about the size of a small bathroom. The door is locked, and the bare walls are driving you crazy. You have been stuck in that same room for hours on end. There are people all over the world who actually have been trapped in a solitary cell in prisons for extended periods of time.

A picture from the society pages shows how cruel staying in an solitary cell can truly be. A 3 x 5 cell, and basically no human contact. Depending on what sort of facility it is, time spent, conditions and effects after the individuals are released vary.

In prisons across the US, the average time for a prisoner to spend in solitary confinement is one to three months. Even though this may sound like a relatively short amount of time, studies show that people placed in such environments have negative effects on their mental state in less than fifteen minutes. Prisoners are locked in this room for twenty-three hours a day and are allowed one hour Some inmates reported feeling dizzy, depressed, and had heart palpitations. 47 percent of inmates reported hallucinations.

As solitary confinement is a method widely known to be used in supermax and high security prisons, eerily similar methods are used in other environments such as wilderness programs, and therapeutic boarding schools for troubled teens. These methods are considered ‘treatment’ and are highly controversial. There have been countless reports filed with the government, and the GOA has neglected to do anything. A source with some inside information states, “Solitary confinement is used widely in these programs, including wilderness programs, where children are left alone for weeks in the wilderness. Some programs place children in solitary rooms. Other times, ‘code silence,’ or ‘comm block,’ is used, which means that the child is not allowed to speak, and the other inmates must ignore them and pretend they do not exist.”  

It is a known fact to the scientific world that humans need basic contact and interaction to thrive or in the very least stay sane- but these people are kept in solitary cells which limit their contact and relationships with others. We are depriving these humans of their rights and basic needs; people cannot make any sort of connection, and if there were already mental issues present in an individual, this sort of punishment would only exacerbate the problems present. Autopsies of deceased inmates show shrunken parts of the brain, specifically the hippocampus, and scans from former inmates show reduced brain activity, and scientists and doctors have speculated that these individuals have less stem cells in the cerebellum than a human who has not been exposed to confinement.  If this issue is thought about with any empathy, we are not letting humans have control over their own emotions. The Smithsonian magazine wrote, “isolated inmates are seven times more likely to hurt or kill themselves then inmates at large.”

  This kind of punishment is technically against the law, although many have weaseled around the fine print. The Bill of Rights, and the eighth amendment states that the use of cruel and unusual punishment. Not only is this type of punishment inhumane and cruel, but unfortunately this sort of confinement is used much more than one would expect. Therefore, the continuous use of solitary confinement is violating numerous laws in our society.

Some argue that it may be easier to “control” and keep watch on an inmate placed into a solitary cell. While these inmates may not be able to hurt other prisoner or leave their cell, this treatment is a worse fate than any prison fight or injury. These people are going crazy trapped in their own minds. Studies have shown that the brains of the prisoners placed in solitary have less stem cells, and brain waves are less frequent. It is unimaginable to imagine staring at the same space over again, never to see any other landscape, let alone room. This is a fight that legislators should not back down from. Prison is punishment enough; we should not torture those in prisons and facilities. Instead, we should offer care to the inmates to try and fix the problems they already have. Therapy, and treatment where security could still be prominent. If we have lost hope on these people already, how can we try to make our society and future better? Solitary confinement is cruel, and no individual should ever be subjected to these horrors.

Hopefully, in the future the debate of solitary confinement will be argued from a point of view that embodies the values and morals of what humanity and our society should stand for.


Works Cited:


Bill of Rights, and the Eighth Amendment















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