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Solitary Confinement in Prison - Research Paper Sample

7 pages
1899 words
Sewanee University of the South
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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The topic I selected to research is solitary confinement in prison. Solitary confinement is the method of isolating people in closed cells for 22-24 hours a day, essentially free of human contact, for periods of time ranging from days to decades. Surprisingly, few prisons use the term solitary confinement, instead referring to prison segregation or placement in restrictive housing. 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 today. Solitary confinement has major impacts on inmates lives. Studies have found many harmful psychological effects of solitary confinement. It causes a tremendous amount of depression, hypersensitivity to noise and touch, insomnia and paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and uncontrollable feelings of rage and fear. The argument that I will be making in this paper is how the hardships that offenders are facing in the correctional system, particularly in solitary confinement, increases the reasons why we should want to turn it upside down. This can be done by doing our research and finding valid points to demolish horrific acts of solitary confinement, leading to the abolishing of it.

The purpose of solitary confinement has been increasingly bitter over the years. Most of the time the correctional officers take it upon themselves to abuse their authority and confine inmates to their negligible acts. For instance, Kalief Browder, who was arrested at the age of 16, and accused of stealing a backpack in 2010 when he was on his way home from a party in the Bronx, NY, would end up spending over three years in Rikers Island, most of it in solitary confinement. After being released, his family made it their priority to focus on what the correctional system failed to monitor. Along with the officers that treated Browder with such heinous. While trying to adapt back into society, Browder became very dispirited. He wound up committing suicide on the sixth of June in 2015. Now, this is just one of many cases that occur throughout this country. However, these are the critical situations that will be used to defend those who go through such things, hopefully changing the correctional system.

The Theories of Corrections (Philosophies of Punishment) I believe plays a large role in what solitary confinement stands for, and why it needs to be completely rehabilitated. The incapacitation theory, in particular, discusses what exactly is occurring today while the inmates are under confinement. According to the book From Theory to Policy: Evidence-Based Corrections, Cullen and Johnson describe the incapacitation theory and the goal to build more and more cages to house more and more offenders. Suspecting that the only reason why they advocate caging more and more offenders is simply that of the act of recidivism. It can get as bad as the judge having an Incapacitation mindset and send them to jail as opposed to evaluating them to see if they are eligible for a rehabilitation program along with having negative comments for all of the 700,000 plus offenders that get released and have to adapt to society.

Moreover, this theory can even reduce the chances of ex-inmates recidivating. Studies have further shown that caging offenders will not change them, but might even enhance their criminal acts. This theory strongly enforces the need to incarcerate criminals, even if it is a minor offense that they can go to rehab for. Somewhat, like solitary confinement, which removes any chance of the offender to become a better person and can cause major psychological effects. That being said, the issues that offenders are facing in the correctional system increases us to make a change in it, by doing our research and finding valid points to demolish horrific acts of solitary confinement.

The practice of solitary confinement dates way back in the 1820s. When it began, it was in only two prisons; in Pennsylvania and New York. In the mid-1800s other prisons also decided to experiment solitary confinement inspired by the two model prisons. Despite the fact that solitary confinement grew so rapidly and gained prominence in the U.S and Europe it sooner became outdated. Most people thought of this act as cruel soon it began. Few years after it was rolled out, a good number of the prisons moved away from the act of solitary confinement citing the effects it had on the prisoners; it inflicted a lot of pain on the prisoners; both physically and psychologically. It is then that the practice declined and eventually vanished in the 1860s both in The U.S and in Europe. The practice would later become popular again in the 1980s, and the new face of solitary confinement is present in about sixty supermax prisons in approximately two-thirds of the states in America. Currently, the prisons combined hold more than twenty thousand prisoners in solitary. This time around the practice has become scarce. So, what has changed? The prisoners are treated in the much more human way only limiting all kinds of human interaction (Cockrell).

For example, the modern American supermax prison subjects its solitary confined prisoners to 23 hours of complete lockdown. During this time, they are completely left to themselves in their intentionally bleak cells. The inmates are exposed to limited sunlight throughout the year. There is completely no kind of communication that should take place between the prisoners in the solitary cells. Little or no opportunities are present to the inmates in solitary. For example, they are not exposed to education, work and minimal forms of entertainment. Once in a week, they are given the opportunity to exercise in a cell slightly bigger than the cells they are confined in. the little physical contact they have is from the outside world is the mishandling from the prison guards. The given period an inmate can be confined in prison depends largely on the system of the prison, often extending to two to three years. Given these conditions, the word torture would be an understatement in defining what the inmates go through.

Research has shown that the effects of the solitary confinement in prisons are startling. Majority of the inmates in solitary complain of severe headaches. They also suffer physical symptoms including chest problems, weight loss, diarrhea which eventually leads to dizziness and fainting. They also suffer from psychological problems which range from inability to concentrate, loss of memory, confusion, as well as visual and auditory hallucinations. They also suffer from paranoia become violent, anxious, and most of them suffer from depression. They also endure trouble sleeping, and most of them become suicidal. Different inmates react differently to the pressure in the solitary cells, but none has been proven immune to this kind of torture. Many of these troublesome conditions are especially unfortunate for the mentally disturbed inmates.

According to a certain researcher, the solitary cells are by all means inappropriate for the mentally disturbed prisoners. The cells are built in such a way that the sensory input to the prisoner is minimized. In this kind of atmosphere, the inmate is prone to stress, deprived regarding sensory instincts and any psychotic reactions. Evidence provided show that this conditions may have deleterious effects on the non-mentally ill prisoners. Additionally, the mentally disturbed prisoners are harmed disproportionately by being solitarily confined.

There is a need for a thorough research on the harm of solitary confinement on the mentally disturbed but facts remain that this group of inmates is disproportionately represented in general; the overall prison and in solitary confinement. Consequently, this group of inmates is at a higher risk of breaking the rules in prison hence earning themselves some ticket to solitary confinement. As mentioned earlier they, in turn, suffer in solitary than their non-mentally ill counterparts.

It is this group of mentally disturbed inmates that are best placed to bring about the necessary and successful legal challenge to these harmful conditions. An action under the Americans with Disabilities Act may yield better results compared to either an Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment challenge. If successful, the ADA challenge will be of benefit to both the mentally and non-mentally ill in solitary confinement. The Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 gives an optional way through which the mentally disturbed inmates can work on improving the quality of life they live in the cells together with the overall population in prison. Under the ADA, this group of inmates has the upper hand at challenging the act of solitary confinement.

This act provides a provision that will be of benefit the inmates in solitary and the overall population at large. The act further places a prohibition on the discrimination of the inmates in three areas which include; employment, public services, and public accommodations. The Americans with Disabilities Act is another justification of my thesis because of what it stands for, which is simply just a better and more appropriate way of imprisonment.

In September 2012, according to the article, "Beyond the Reach of the Constitution: A New Approach to Juvenile Solitary Confinement Report," the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Illinois department of juvenile justice on behalf of over a thousand juveniles confined in the system. In the suit, underage youths were allegedly placed in room confinement in the Illinois Department Juvenile Justice Centers, despite being unwarranted for and for excessive periods of time and in unsuitable conditions. Arthur D. Bishop was mentioned as the person responsible for all the policies, practices and procedures in the system. The then director was responsible for overseeing all operations in the system (Cooper). This is just one of the many lawsuits of its kind. Others had been filed in 2011 in New York and New Jersey, 2004 in Ohio. In an unsurprising event, Illinois Attorney General was the defense counsel on the side of the IDJJ. The Attorney General is obliged by the statute to defend actions and proceedings against any State officer, in his official capacity, in any of the courts of this State or the United States. In any case against a state or its officers, an agreement can only be reached if the A.G consents.

Whether playing the role of defense counsel or serving in prosecution function, it is him who steers the course of litigation. However, this very crucial role notwithstanding, his position on solitary confinement cases has so far gone unexamined by academic literature and news coverage. It is, however, possible to establish the necessity of the A.Gs and their offices in this kind of cases. This can be achieved by closely looking at the fillings and transcripts in the lawsuits. The very much needed reforms in juvenile justice together with the practice of solitary confinement are a problem beyond reach by the constitution together with the Eighth Amendment. The reason behind this is because solitary confinement is as a result of the facilities being excessively underfunded and understaffed.

There has also been a misguided view amongst the officials that solitary confinement is a way of indirectly maintaining order within the correctional institution. Therefore, AGs are placed in a unique position to solve these problems which would have gone unaddressed in a ruling enshrined by the constitution. The fact that juveniles are even confined and treated as adults is just gut-reaching. This supports my thesis because a juvenile should never be deprived at such a young age. This is just one of many reasons why solitary confinement needs to be abolished.

The article The Psychiatric A...

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