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Redoing Solitary Confinement

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The National Prisons Group, a penal oversight organization, is recommending changes for national accreditation standards for solitary confinement. There are various proposals including health care for mentally ill inmates placed in isolation, increased time out of cells for recreation and education, and mandatory health care visits for all inmates in solitary confinement.

The United States is number one for the most inmates ( 80,000 inmates) held in solitary confinement. Prisoners in isolation are confined to small cells, six feet by nine feet, without windows–unlike the cell in the above picture, with little to no access to the outside world for many months and even years. Inmates are confined to these cells for 23 hours a day. Such extreme isolation has serious psychological effects on inmates who will eventually be released to their community. According to several state studies, fifty percent of prison suicides occur in solitary confinement.

In 2015, the Association of State Correctional Administrators issued a report stating that prolonged isolation of inmates is– “a grave problem in the United States.”Various states have finally realized the gravity of this punishment and have made changes in their use of solitary confinement.

A 2014 Colorado law has prohibited solitary confinement for inmates with serious mental illnesses. This new law was approved after the fatal 2013 shooting of Tom Clements, then the state’s prisons director. He was shot by a former inmate who was released after spending the majority his sentence in isolation.

Pennsylvania’s policy with respect to serious mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement changed in 2015 as a result of a settlement between the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania. Many of the Pennsylvania inmates had been  placed in solitary confinement for behavioral issues which were caused by their severe mental illnesses.

Pennsylvania inmates had been confined to a minimum of twenty three hours a day in isolated cells. The solitary confinement would often aggravate and intensify the mental diseases. Inmates considered dangerous to staff and other inmates will now have a minimum of twenty hours a week outside of their cells under strict supervision.

Colorado, Mississippi and Washington have also made major changes regarding their use of long-term solitary confinement.

It is common sense that inmates who have violate minor rules or who found with drugs should not be placed in solitary confinement. Addicted inmates need drug programs and not additional punishment.

Gary Mohr, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction stated that inmates sentenced to solitary confinement should be inmates, “we’re afraid of, not mad at.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky: “You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners”.

By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com
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9 Responses to Redoing Solitary Confinement

  1. PrisonPath January 22, 2016 at 10:40 pm #

    Bridgette–I agree that prisoners with mental issues need more time outside of their prison cell, it antagonized them, looking at four walls. An idle mind is the devil playground.

  2. PrisonPath January 27, 2016 at 12:30 am #

    David A. Camp, PhD If you look at the literature, psychologically the worst punishment for anyone is solitary. In studies of sensory deprivation (not quite the same) people often cannot remain sane (so to speak) for even an hour. If punishment is the goal, then so be it, but given our over bloated system, we need to review what we are doing to our population. Not everyone in prison is a bad person, is there anyone on this link that never broke a law, or just not caught. Research shows most people should have about a 10 yr sentence if they got caught. Prison should be for those that are truly bad.

  3. PrisonPath January 27, 2016 at 12:31 am #

    Luqman — Please keep up the good work. Moreover, in having a concern for people as a whole to uphold what is right and forbid what is wrong; then, please uphold the right(s) before prison rather than in prison because some people given the proper community and collective interest concern may never reach the hardships associated with massive incarceration. This is not to omit the schools of thought that do not agree on the best therapies but to uphold testing for practical application to help people who need help

  4. PrisonPath January 27, 2016 at 12:32 am #

    Michael– I see it daily. The DA’s hold the obviously mentally ill, Judges are gutless to disagree with DA and mentally ill are driven mad isolated and alone in a lite cell 23 hours a day, no tv, no books. It’s inhumane. It’s happening north of Boston to my client as we speak. It’s an atrocity.

  5. PrisonPath January 27, 2016 at 12:33 am #

    Dana– Its about time that the prison system wake up and realize the importance of treating mentally ill inmates vs placing them in solitary confinement. This news is refreshing Bradley, thank you.

  6. PrisonPath January 27, 2016 at 8:26 pm #

    Catherine– I know of an actual prisoner who was sent to “the hole” for over “75 days” for having and confessing to have a cell phone; he’s currently serving a double-life ticket. Is this Constitutional?

  7. PrisonPath January 29, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

    William– Article states, “National Prisons Group..recommending changes for national accreditation standards for solitary confinement.” Article reads, “Prisoners in isolation are confined to small cells, six feet by nine feet, without windows–unlike the cell in the above picture, with little to no access to the outside world for many months and even years.” Article reads, “several state studies, fifty percent of prison suicides occur in solitary confinement.” Article reads, “It is common sense that inmates who have violate minor rules or who found with drugs should not be placed in solitary confinement. Addicted inmates need drug programs and not additional punishment.”
    The Use of broad statements and examples does not help the cause and only confuses the uninformed. Yes, change required or needed as we move forward in all aspects of corrections and criminal justice but cherry picking bad instances can be identified with all professions.

  8. PrisonPath January 29, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

    William–Also, ACA accreditation guidelines already outline special management standards to include health/medical care, due process, visits, legal etc.

  9. PrisonPath January 29, 2016 at 8:21 pm #

    William–The number of physicians in the U.S. is 700,000.
    Accidental deaths caused by physicians per year are 120,000.
    Accidental deaths per physician is 0.171
    Doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owner.

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