On January 23, 2014 Colorado's Corrections Department director, Rick Raemisch wanted to lean more about solitary confinement, so he spent a night in a solitary confinement cell. He describes the room being 7 by 13 feet approximately, the sink, toilet and bed all made of steel screwed in to the floor. His experience was like nothing he had ever experienced, he was left with nothing to do but to count the holes on the wall carved by previous inmates, an experiment he said left him "feeling twitchy and paranoid.' That experience left Rick to re think solitary confinement policies.
Today in the USA, approximately 82,000 inmates are held in solitary confinement. Prisoners held in solitary confinement are held from 22 to 24 hour a day lockdown in a small cell. The length held in solitary confinement can often be extended to months years or even decades. Pro solitary confinement supporters find the use of solitary confinement cells a fair practice because it is used as a way to punish and discipline convicted prisoners. These people also argue that it is an effective way to manage certain prisoners that have erratic behavioral problems or are perceived to have unstable mental illnesses. Although supporters bring good arguments to the table pertaining to solitary confinement, in fact, solitary confinement is not only ineffective in serving its purpose but it is more expensive than traditional methods. Moreover it causes inmates serious psychological damage and it constitutes inhumane treatment to the prisoners. Recent studies have shown us that it increases reoffending and fail to diminish prison violence
Advocates for solitary confinement argue that prison staff members have the right and duty to take certain measurable precautions to protect themselves, prisoners, and staff members in their facility. The most basic necessity needed to guarantee safety in a prison system is to have full control of inmates. This includes having control of the prisoners mobility at all times to prevent them from harming others or even themselves. The use of solitary confinement is an effective measure for controlling and managing prisoners who do not comply with rules and regulations. Solitary confinement is put in place when the prisoner is a habitual offender or is unmanageable. It is implemented as a last resort after restraint methods such as; restrain chairs, brute force or even pepper spray fail in controlling the inmate. The prison staffs are solely held liable for carrying out security duties as mandatory, contributing effectively to the safe and secure custody of inmates and faculty on a day-to-day operation. In some cases where the prison staff failed to protect and prevent inmates from violence and results in a prisoner being harmed or even killed, the officer were held liable for the incident and were criminally charged, facing stiff penalties. Protocol calls for the officers to immediately mitigate the risk for any violence inside the prison and promote safety. In 2005 a jury found several prisoners guilty of negligence after a prison inmate murdered another inmate aboard a state prison bus. Three correctional officers were found guilty of security negligence while a fourth was found to be grossly negligent during the attack. The family of the man who was killed has been awarded $18.5 million for their pain and suffering as a result of this wrongful death case. Because the correctional officers are state employees, the state will cover $200,000 of their financial obligation each. However, the man found guilty of gross negligence will not be supported by the state at all. This example of correctional officers found guilty for not maintaining a safe environment for inmates further illustrates the need to have full control of the prisoner at all times. Solitary confinement facilitates that by segregating the prisoner in a small cell 23 hours a day 7 days a week, making it easier for the staff to manage the residents inside the prison.
Although solitary confinement does have some valuable uses it actually impedes the system more than it actually benefits it. Solitary confinement is also very expensive, in great part because of the amount of staff more needed to maintain the system. Study showed estimated that the each cell needed to house an inmate in a super max prison is $78,000, as opposed to $25,000 for an inmate in a general prison. According to figures compiled by the ACLU of Colorado, 'in 2010 it cost $14,933 to $21,485 more per inmate, per year to hold someone in administrative segregation in the state's super max prisons than in a regular maximum security prison.' The additional cost to keep solitary confinement inmates in Colorado exceeds $21 million. In addition to higher management costs the cost of building solitary confinement prisons is 2 to 4 times higher. This takes money away from programs that would benefit society as a whole, like education or drug abuse programs.
In the 21st century Concerns about deep psychological effects on solitary confinement prisoners have rapidly surfaced in the media and medical records. Americans fist experienced and learned about the effects on sensory deprivation and social isolation during the Korean War, where American prisoner were held in solitary confinement. This gave growth to a myriad of scientific literature and medical knowledge pertaining to the effects on humans when they are held in isolation. This knowledge demonstrated the effects of human deprivation from exterior and social stimulation could have devastating effects on inmates. The prisoners will become incapable of adequately maintaining a state of awareness of the environment. Studies have shown that even a few days in solitary confinement will cause wave pattern in the brain to change the normal pattern. Over time the inmates descend into a mental numbness in which the person attentiveness becomes impaired. The inmates after time become incapable of processing any external stimulation. And becomes what doctor's call 'hyperreponsive'. Progressively withdrawing into themselves. Prisoners who become psychiatrically ill during their incarceration will suffer permanent damage as a result of solitary confinement. Further more making it more difficult for the inmates to reintegrate themselves into society. In 2008 the son of a well-liked and wealthy oil and gas attorney named Evan, who was sentenced four years to solitary confinement after punching a prison guard. After Evan got out of jail, he murdered Tom Clemens the head of the Colorado department of corrections. Tom Clements was shot dead at his home after answering the front door of his house in a rural neighborhood on March 19, 2013. This tragic event furthermore proves that solitary confinement was useless and in fact made the inmate more dangerous.
In the United States federal law on torture prohibits conduct "specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering." And "severe" physical pain is not limited to "excruciating or agonizing" pain, or pain "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily functions, or even death." The severe mental suffering from prolonged solitary confinement puts the confined at risk of brain impairment. In August 2011, Juan Mendez, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, concluded that 'even 15 days in solitary confinement constitutes torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and 15 days is the limit after which irreversible harmful psychological effects can occur.' However, many prisoners in the United States have been isolated for far longer. Torture or inhumane treatment does not always have to be associated with physical harm, psychological pain can also be constituted as torture and inhumane treatment.
Solitary confinement is a common method of punishing unruly prison inmates and keeping them under control. However, research on solitary confinement indicates that it tends to increase behavioral problems by intensifying feelings of hopelessness, frustration and anger. It is ineffective because it has an inability to rehabilitate the prisoners once their time is served and in addition putting the inmate in immense psychological stress. Extreme isolation and deprivation has been associated to a laundry list of psychological disorders that prisoners in solitary confinement experience. The devastating psychological effects of solitary confinement have been well documented by scientists. Prisoners suffer significant mental harm that place them at serious risk of even more psychological harm in the future. These people are serving time in a prison within a prison for months to years and even decades. Solitary confinement also adds to the cost of incarceration making it 3 times more expensive to build, maintain and manage the prisoners. The reality is that one-day prisoners will eventually be released to the public or to general population facilities. Having experienced solitary confinement the inmates have dramatically reduced their social and coping skills, making it very difficult to integrate back into a normal society. This is why 2/3 of solitary confinement prisoners find their way back with in 6 month to a year of their release. Fortunately prisons have alternatives like giving prisoners more access to mental heath institutes instead of using the jail as one.
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