When a person is convicted of a crime and sent to prison, many people likely assume that they are incarcerated in a cell and have to adhere to numerous rules and regulations. Of course, it goes without saying, that their movements are limited and their freedom is severely restricted.
What some might not realize is that a number of prisoners have been confined to solitary confinement and have remained there for years and years and years.
Prisoners are sent to solitary confinement, also known as “the hole” for serious infractions of prison rules. Also, for safety reasons, sometimes prisoners are segregated from the general population, however many might not realize that also constitutes solitary confinement. But it is.
Others are simply segregated, for many years, for a wide variety of reasons not related to infractions.
Lengthy time spend alone, year after year, has many questioning if solitary confinement is cruel and unusual punishment for prisoners?
What about if you have been in solitary confinement for 26 years like William Blake?
Blake, certainly no saint, is serving a 77 years to life for murdering one deputy and wounding another in a failed escape attempt from court in 1977 while he was appearing on drug charges.
He penned an essay, Voices from Solitary: A Sentence Worse Than Death, that details his experience and writes that he, “watched with my own eyes the slow descent of sane men into madness—sometimes not so slow.”
In California, there is no limit as to how long an inmate can be kept in solitary confinement, with almost 100 prisoners being held in solitary confinement for more than 20 years..
Albert Woodfox, 64, and Herman Wallace, 69 were held in solitary confinement for nearly 40 years in Louisiana and were ordered to be immediately removed from solitary confinement in 2011.
Sarah Jo Pender, convicted of 2 murders, had escaped from an Indiana prison in 2008. She was recaptured in December of 2008 and has been held in solitary confinement ever since.
Does being placed in solitary confinement constitute cruel and unusual punishment and does it cause prisoners to become mentally anguished?
In Pennsylvania, an unidentified prisoner who has spent 7 of the last 12 years in solitary confinement developed a schizoaffective disorder and an intellectual disability. He said,
Isolation, makes me want to rip my face off.
Are prisoners developing more problems than they had because they are segregated from the general population and confined to a very small space, approximately the size of a small closet for so many years?
Prisoners in California’s Pelican Bay prison have had a number of hunger strikes protesting various condition at California prisoners, including long-term solitary confinement.
Should our prisons be concerned with an inmate’s mental health, even if they have no chance of ever being released back into society? What about a prisoner that is expected to be released back into society before they die? Will the psychological, emotional and physical issues that they may develop due to lengthy periods of solitary confinement affect their transition back into society?
An investigation conducted by the US Department of Justice indicates that solitary confinement causes a host of mental and physical issues and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
What do you think?
Should we, as a society, treat our inmates more humanely?