Ethics of Solitary Confinement Reconsidered
February 17, 2016
Solitary confinement has severe mental repercussions and can leave inmates psychologically damaged within three days, despite many inmates being in solitary cells for years. In Colorado, the average time spent by those placed in solitary confinement spans to 18 months. The longest term served thus far in America has been 43 years.
Often times, inmates think they are there much longer than they are. There are no clocks and a light is always on, so many lose track of time, and are banned from having any material possessions such as art supplies, books, radios or television.
“I think solitary is justifiable in extreme circumstances but only for a very short period of time, it should never be used as a first resort punishment,” senior Annabel Weinbach said.
These prisoners spend an average 22 to 24 hours or more a day in plain gray concrete rooms, generally only leaving to shower for 15 minutes, 3 times a week.
The rooms these inmates spend their time in are typically six by nine feet or eight by ten feet small with occasionally bars, but usually thick metal doors with slots to shove food under.
Many consider this torture and one of the worst forms of punishments, as it damages the inmates for the rest of their lives.
There is an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 prisoners in solitary confinement as of right now.
Studies have indicated that being locked in solitary confinement can worsen and even create new mental illnesses such as depression, paranoia and anxiety. Those prisoners held in solitary confinement, especially minors, are also much more likely to commit suicide. In Texas, over 2,000 of the prisoners in solitary confinement faced pre-existing mental illnesses.
The upkeep of maintaining prisoners in solitary confinement cells is also much more costly keeping them with other prisoners.
Recently, Obama has banned the usage of solitary confinement in juvenile prisons; however, the issue still persists for adults today. Oregon and Illinois have recently demonstrated interest in a ban for the solitary confinement of adults as well although process has not yet been made.
“I support Obama’s banning of solitary confinement for juveniles, long-term solitary confinement can be extremely damaging to anyone’s mental health, especially juveniles’, whose brains are not fully formed,” Weinbach said.
Obama is the first and only president to have ever visited a federal prison and seems to be interested in reforming solitary confinement for adults, as well.