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Critical Thinking Essay

Solitary Confinement
By: Anna Moore
Green Group
3/18/16

Critical Thinking: Solitary Confinement

Because studies have shown that anyone in solitary confinement for over a week,
can develop irreversible, debilitating symptoms, more than a third of the become
actively psychotic and/or suicidal, and are unable to readjust to social settings and are
likely to engage in hostile and violent actions, the FBOP, Federal Bureau of Prisons,
must obliterate Solitary Confinement from U.S. prisons.
The idea that solitary confinement could discipline people who misbehaved first
appeared when the Quaker belief that prisoners isolated in stone cells with only a Bible
would use the time to repent, pray and find introspection.was introduced. The first
solitary confinement experiment, in the U.S., took place in the Eastern State
Penitentiary in Philadelphia, in 1829. However, almost all of the inmates went insane or
would commit suicide, so the practice died off in the years to follow. But the practice
came back some years later, in 1934, when the Federal Government opened Alcatraz, a
prison on an island off the San Francisco Bay, which housed some of the most
dangerous inmates of its time. Alcatraz also had a solitary confinement hall, called DBlock. One of the cells in D-Block, called The Hole, was reserved for the worst
inmates. The Hole was made of bare concrete and had no windows or light, inmates
were kept naked and fed bread and water through a slot in the door. Although most
inmates only spent a few days in The Hole, many would spend years on D-Block. The
idea of solitary confinement fixated people, when in 1962, a movie about Robert Stroud,
also known as the Birdman of Alcatraz who spent six years in isolation, came out.
The problem of solitary confinement becomes more well known and discussed
about, when two prison guards were murdered by former isolation prisoners, in 1983,
and soon cases like it start popping up all over the place. In 1995, in the Madrid v.

Gomez court case, the federal judge says that the conditions of California's Pelican Bay
Prison may well hover on the edge of what is humanly tolerable. However, he rules
that since there is no constitutional basis for which the government can shut it down, the
state must decide what should be done. In 2012, a lawsuit settlement in California, also
called Ashker v. Governor of California, allowed thousands of inmates who spent years
in solitary confinement, back into general prison. The lawsuit was brought up on behalf
of the inmates in Pelican Bay State Prison, who filled its isolation wing for alleged gang
membership. Although the settlement did not ban solitary confinement altogether, it
banned indefinite holding and limits confinement to up to five years for those who
commit a crime while in prison, and up to seven years for gang members. This lawsuit
was a major step towards the end of isolation as a tool for punishment in prisons.
Although many lawsuits, experiments and studies have surfaced showing the cruelty
of solitary confinement, many people are still unaware of the negative effects of
isolation. For example, Effect of Solitary Confinement on Prisoners examines a study
done on inmates from solitary confinement. The study examined twenty inmates put in
solitary, and twenty inmates put in regular prison, and the psychological differences
between them before and after a controlled time. The results showed only small
differences in the subjects, and they argued that the negative effects of solitary have
often been over emphasised. However, this study, and those like it, are not accurate.
First, the state of mind of any prisoner from any kind of prison, is likely to be a
depressed and anxious one, so the difference between those in solitary and regular
prison, is likely to be smaller than comparing someone who is not in prison, but it's that
small difference that counts. It can mean the difference between a full recovery, and a

life full of paranoia and depression, or the difference between able to seek help, and
one more inmate suicide In addition, the study that was conducted was not an accurate
representation of the differences between solitary and regular prison. The report of the
study did not specify how long the experiment lasted, making it believable that it did not
last long enough to get meaningful results, since many inmates are kept in isolation for
weeks or even months.
At least forty-four states in the United States have what are called supermax
prisons, prisons that consist mainly of solitary confinement cells, which can also be
called Security Housing Units (SHUs), Intensive Management Units (IMUs), or
Restricted Housing Units (RHUs). Multiple studies and interviews have been conducted
to determine the mental and physical of inmates coming out of solitary confinement, and
they have found that it takes a heavy toll. In 1993, Dr. Stuart Grassian held interviews
with inmates who had been held in isolation and found that solitary confinement
induces a psychiatric disorder characterised by...a litany...of physical and psychological
problems. In studying these men, Dr. Grassian found high rates of anxiety,
nervousness, obsessive ruminations, anger, violent fantasies, nightmares, heart
palpitations, and dozens of other problems. In fact, in 2013, forensic psychiatrist, Dr.
Raymond Patterson found that prisoners in California's SHUs and other places like it,
have a thirty-three percent higher chance of committing suicide, than someone in
regular prison. Not only are supermax prisons and solitary confinement cells used to try
and discipline many prisoners, they are also used as dumping grounds for those with
mental illnesses. In a 2003 report, an organisation called Human Rights Watch, found
that one third to one half of people held in isolation, had a mental illness.

Even though many steps have been taken to fix the conditions of solitary
confinement, such as Obama's ban on the isolation of juveniles, it is still a common
practice that needs to be eliminated. The first solution to solitary confinement, would be;
instead of isolation, limit the number of trouble inmates at any given prison, or at least
at given section in a prison. This would be especially helpful for those inmates accused
of being gang members. Along with restricting the amount of trouble prisoners in an
area, the prisoners who cause trouble could have certain privileges normally given to
inmates, could be taken away, such as jobs, educational programs, or recreational
hours. This would ensure the inmates can still interact with other people, which is
essential to psychological health, but would have consequences for trouble causing
actions.
Another solution to this problem has to do with medical care. Since from one third
to one half of prisoners in solitary have mental illnesses, it is clear that either prison
officials don't care, or are just unaware of the illnesses. In fact, medical and dental care
within a prison is very limited and medical personnel work in sparse conditions. It is
reasonable to presume that mental illnesses are usually what classify inmates as
trouble and worthy of solitary confinement. The limitations of prison health care is most
likely what leads prisoners into solitary confinement instead of being diagnosed and
sent somewhere they can be helped. Therefor, improving medical care in prisons would
significantly decrease the number of inmates sent into isolation, which would lead to
less and less use of solitary as a disciplinary action, especially for those in which it
would only worsen their condition.

Should solitary confinement not go away in the near future, thousands more
inmates will have to suffer the consequences of isolation. According to a 2005 study,
there is an estimated 25,000 people in solitary in the nation's state and federal prisons.
However, this estimate applies only to supermax prisons, not the hundreds of other
Secure Housing Units, Restricted Housing Units, and other similar housing units. This
means that there are over 25,000 inmates in the United States alone, who will suffer the
psychological and even physical side effects of their stay in solitary.
Solitary confinement is an archaic disciplinary technique used in prison, since the
early 18 hundreds, it can only be described as a form of torture. Not only is it torture
while an inmate is in isolation, it is torture afterwards as well, with the majority of
inmates coming out of isolation with irreversible symptoms, which include hallucinations,
distortions of perception and time, leading to PTSD. More than a third of them are
actively psychotic and/or suicidal, and almost none are able to readjust to social
settings, and are likely to engage in hostile or violent actions. Therefor, the FBOP.
Federal Bureau of Prisons, should eliminate solitary confinement, and any other form of
isolation, from American prisons, hence helping to fix the state of mind of thousands of
prisoners.
Works Cited
Huffington Post. California To End Solitary Confinement For Thousands Of Inmates.
Huffpost Politics. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.
<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/california-solitaryconfinement_us_55e5df4fe4b0aec9f354a7c9>.

Npr. Timeline: Solitary Confinement in US Prisons. Life in Solitary Confinement. N.p.,


n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2016. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?
storyId=5579901>.
Pbs. What Does Solitary Confinement do to Your Mind. Frontline. N.p., n.d. Web. 24
Apr. 2016. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/what-does-solitary-confinementdo-to-your-mind/>.
Prison Fellowship. Prison Fellowship: Frequently Asked Questions About Prison.
Prison Fellowship. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.
<https://www.prisonfellowship.org/resources/training-resources/in-prison/prisonculture/frequently-asked-questions-about-prison/>.
Ridgeway, James, and Jean Casella. Controversial Colorado Study Shows Prisoners
Improve in Solitary Confinement. Solitary Watch. Solitary Watch, n.d. Web. 15 Mar.
2016. <http://solitarywatch.com/2010/11/07/controversial-colorado-study-showsprisoners-improve-in-solitary-confinement/>.
Solitary Watch. FAQ. Solitary Watch. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.
<http://solitarywatch.com/facts/faq/>.
- - -. How Many Prisoners are in Solitary Confinement. Solitary Watch. N.p., n.d. Web.
24 Apr. 2016. <http://solitarywatch.com/2012/02/01/how-many-prisoners-are-in-solitaryconfinement-in-the-united-states/>.

Annotated Bibliography
1. www.npr.org/templates
Timeline: Solitary Confinement In US Prisons By: Laura Sullivan
-

On a Quaker belief that prisoners isolated in Stone cells with only a Bible

would use the time to repent, pray and find retrospection.


- Birdman of Alcatraz aka Robert Strout
- May well hover on the edge of what is humanly tolerable.

2. m.huffpost.com/us
California to End Solitary Confinement For Thousands of Inmates By: Michael
McLaughlin
-

Lawsuit against California's Pelican Bay State Prison


Lawsuit settlement ends solitary for thousands of prisoners
Limits time spent in Solitary

3. www.pbs.org
What Does Solitary Confinement Do to Your Mind? By: Jason M. Breslow
-

1951 study on college students about sensory deprivation; supposed to

last six weeks, no student lasted longer than 7 days


4. www.hrw.org
Human Rights Watch
-

Organisation who did 2003 report on medical illnesses in solitary

confinement

5. Solitarywatch.com
Solitary Watch FAQ
-

1993 Dr. Stuart Grassian interviews of inmates; psychiatric and physical

effects
- - induces a psychiatric disorder characterized by...a litany of physical
and psychological problems.
- High rates of anxiety , nervousness, obsessive ruminations, anger, violent
fantasies, nightmares, heart palpitations, etc.
- 2013 Dr, raymond Patterson, prisoners in SHUs higher chance of suicide
- 2003 Human Rights Watch report on inmates w/ mental illnesses 1/3 -
have mental illnesses

6. www.prisonfellowship.org
Prison Fellowship; Frequently Asked Questions About Prisons
-

Health care in prisons


Medical and dental care within a prison is very limited, and medical

personnel work in sparse conditions.


7. Solitarywatch.com
How Many Prisoners Are in Solitary Confinement in the United States?
-

2005 study
Estimated 25,000 people in solitary confinement in federal and state

prisons
8. Acces-internationalvg2.cappelendam
America's Cultural Role in the World Today
-

American influence over the world

9. www.pewglobal.org
Chapter 2. Attitudes Toward American Culture and Ideas
-

72% Tunisia, 59% China prefer American Democracy


79% Spain, 74% Italy, 72% France prefer American Music/ Movies