Most people understand what solitary confinement from films or television shows that revolve around a prison. The prisoner is sent to a cell where they have zero human interaction, unless it is with the prison guards escorting the prisoner for vital human needs such as eating, which is also done alone. It is a punishment for the inmates that have been deemed unsafe to have around the normal population of the prison, or have done something wrong that caused the prison to send them to solitary to punish the prisoner for what they have done.
I was originally someone who believed something such as this may seem simple enough to understand and was a humane way of aling with a problematic prisoner, when in reality, it is much more traumatic for the prisoners psychologically, especially in case where the prisoner has prolonged stays in solitary confinement. After reading the article “Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America’s Prisons. ” by Shane Bauer. This article describes the conditions Shane Bauer experienced in Iran when he was a political prisoner in solitary confinement.
His experience was traumatic to him, even though he was not sentenced for a prolonged period. This experience made him want an insight into what goes on in America’s prisons, and how they conduct their solitary confinement procedures. Bauer was horrified to see that America’s prisoners are getting worse treatment than he experienced in Iran. He interviews prisoners who are currently in solitary confinement, and prisoners who have recently been released.
They give their stories of their time in solitary, and to say the least, is what nightmares are made of. Bauer brings his research of the topic to his article by informing the reader with troubling statistics about sheer quantity of prisoners in solitary confinement just in America’s prisons and some of the longest sentenced prisoners to solitary confinement where the prisoner has been in solitary confinement for years, and have no real time set where they will be released from solitary confinement.
Bauer uses more examples of prisoners being sentenced to solitary confinement, which shows that the system is flawed, sending inmates who have done nothing to deserve a sentencing to solitary confinement. All the disheartening facts presented in this article gave me the inspiration to deeper investigate the issues that are correlated with solitary confinement, and how the practice of solitary confinement could be classified as a form a torture, due to the psychological and physical toll it takes on the prisoners that have been sentenced to solitary confinement.
While researching the topic, the article “Mental Health Issues in LongTerm Solitary and Supermax Confinement” by Craig Haney was one article that stuck out and provided some very vital information to my research. The article primarily focuses on the psychological issues that plague the prisoners sent to solitary confinement and the increasing number of Supermax prisons. Haney in-depth describes the conditions prisoners live with daily while living in solitary confinement.
This quote describes just one daily routine that these prisoners go through. When prisoners in these units are escorted outside their cells or beyond their housing units, they typically are first placed in restraints-chained while still inside their cells (through a food port or tray slot on the cell door)-and sometimes tethered to a leash that is held by an escort officer. ” These prisoners are monitored using cameras and are spoken to through intercoms, instead of speaking to the guards, this is to make sure the prisoners have minimal human interaction.
After giving an insight on the daily life of a solitary confinement prisoner, Hanley proceeds to give background information on the history and origin of solitary confinement, and how it has come to be what it is today. The overcrowding of prisons, guards not being able to control prison crises, and the politics era taking away prison administrators power to use alternative ways of punishment were all influences that led to the increased use of solitary confinement. Then comes the most vital information of this article.
Hanley provides the reader with the mental health issues and emotional pain that these prisoners acquire when being sentenced to solitary confinement, even telling the reader that there have been many cases that the prisoner couldn’t consciously report being in pain or feeling distress, this means the number of cases where the prisoner is becoming mentally disturbed is much higher than statistics may say. Hanley ends off with a conclusion about the entire article mainly presenting his own opinions to the reader about the problems with solitary confinement and what needs to be done about it.
As I read this article, I came to understand more and more that the topic of solitary confinement is a significantly more complex than | originally believed. As a psychology major, I do have a better understanding of mental issues than the typical reader, but this does not mean only someone who is interested in the topic of psychology should care about the issues presented in this article. This is a matter of the American prison system having flaws and in need of a change.
An issue such as this is something that needs to be addressed by the people of America, as these are our citizens and need to be treated humanely. When I read “Specifically, in case studies and personal accounts provided by mental health and correctional staff who worked in Supermax units, a range of similar adverse symptoms have been observed to occur in prisoners, including appetite and sleep disturbances, anxiety, panic, rage, loss of control, paranoia, hallucinations, and self-mutilations” in Hanley’s article, I was disgusted.
Originally I went into my research not being sure if I would find anything that would make me feel that these prisoners deserve different treatment. They are our worst citizens, why would we care about them? I was immediately swayed. Treatment such as this is a form of psychological torture, no person should be driven to the point of insanity, where they are seeing hallucination and self-harming, by an organized system such as America’s prisons. To summarize, there is not a single published study of solitary or Supermax-like confinement in which nonvoluntary confinement lasting for longer than 10 days, where participants were unable to terminate their isolation at will, that failed to result in negative psychological effects. ” Just from data of information, it has made me believe that solitary confinement needs to be abolished, and outlawed in all fifty states of America.
With scientific evidence to back up my claim, there will always be some sort negative psychological effect that comes with solitary confinement, this type of mental pain is just as damaging than any sort of physical pain, and both can lead to death of the prisoner. So why is one illegal and the other one has been going on for decades without anyone blinking an eye? I say the reason for this is due to the fact, people care less about pain they cannot see. Looking more into my research, I found another article that also brought in a different insight on the view of solitary confinement.
The article “The cruel and unusual phenomenology of solitary confinement” by Shaun Gallagher provides vital information to understanding the issues of solitary confinement by looking at the phenomenology. The article looks at the phenomenology and psychology of solitary confinement to use in legal issues. It starts of speaking of the cruelty of this punishment and how many legal declarations prohibit cruel punishment, even within the constitution as it states “cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted. Gallagher has an issue with this statement as he says “From the beginning, however, the wording was thought “too indefinite,” or “to have no meaning in it. ” It is still difficult to find a clear definition of “cruel” in the legal domain. ” He is saying that the definition of cruel punishment lacks any sort of definition to it, as it is purely opinion based, this means there is no true way to determine what is a “cruel” punishment and what is not. After this, Gallagher begins to speak about the concepts of Phenomenology, which is the focus of this article.
He defines Phenomenology as this “ Even in its classical form, emphasizes the constitutive nature of intersubjectivity” He follows this explaining many of the main concepts of Phenomenological philosophy. The term intersubjectivity means; existing between conscious minds. This term is vital to the understanding the article as many of his main points rely on this term. After presenting the history of Phenomenological philosophy he continues to change to the topic of primary and secondary inter subjectivity.
Primary intersubjectivity is defined by him as “Primary intersubjectivity involves the sensory-motor capacities that shape our interactions with others from the very beginning. Just after birth, for example, infants are capable of interacting with others, as evidenced in experiments on neonatal imitation” He then describes Seconday intersubjectivity as “The concept of secondary intersubjectivity is associated with the advent of joint attention during the first year.
Infants start to notice how others pragmatically engage with the world and they begin to coconstitute the meaning of the world through interactions with others in joint actions. ” These two concepts are vital for the development and can have dire consequences if deprived of these interactions. The consequences of not having these intersubjective interactions is the next part of his article. The consequences of children of being deprived of these interactions can be conditions that last a life time. The main example he uses is children being diagnosed with induced autism.
Studies have shown that naturally occurring autism can be caused by social deficits, resulting in problems with the basic sensory and motor processes. This is the perfect lead in the the final topic of this article, how this all relates to solitary confinement. The first sentence says it all “Prisoners who are subjected to solitary confinement show symptoms and describe a phenomenology that is not equivalent to either autism or induced autism, but reflect similar motor problems, and often times more extensive and serious disruptions of experience.
Gallagher brings in significant information relating to the very close relation to autism and prisoners in solitary confinement, where it is described that the prisoners have nervous ticks and difficulty sustaining a conversation. To add to the symptoms were the prisoner’s sensory awareness, motor skills and ability to see and hear clearly to make sense of what is going on around them had diminished significantly. He states to the reader that the prisoner also begin to experience derealization, which means that they start to have trouble determine what is real and what is a figment of their imagination.
It was said “The person subjected to solitary confinement risks losing her self and disappearing into a non-existence” which describes the symptoms of derealization exactly. Gallagher then goes off the topic of derealization and Primary and Secondary intersubjectivity to try and clarify what is deemed a cruel and unusual punishment. The defined four principles that determine when a punishment is cruel and unusual is: When the severity is degrading to human dignity (including torture).
When a severe punishment is “obviously inflicted in wholly arbitrary fashion. ” When the severe punishment “is clearly and totally rejected throughout society. ” When a severe punishment is “patently unnecessary. ” He believes that phenomenology provides a clear interpretation of the concept of cruelty. Adding to his dislike for the current system, he also says “Solitary confinement morally degrades human dignity by literally degrading (if not destroying) the human self in all of these aspects, starting with the deeply relational dimension.
As the article ends, Gallagher deems solitary confinement cruel and unusual punishment, and believes that it needs to be illegal, as it is degrading the dignity of the human. To me, this article provided quite an unheard insight and view on the topic of solitary confinement. The article provided a philosophical view type to solitary confinement which is a view that not many people have ever done before, or thought of looking at the topic in this way. The scientific studies that backed this article were the main part of this article that stuck out to me specifically.
As when Gallagher brought in the studies behind Induced Autism, it was a correlation that I never had expected. When he presented that prisoners in solitary confinement have symptoms very similar to Autism, this was a fantastic use of the rhetorical term Pathos. Using a condition such as Autism works well to connect emotionally with the reader, and as it is condition much of the population knows and understands, there is a high chance that the reader will have some sort of connection to the condition.
After reading these two articles, what use to be a huge lacking of understanding what solitary confinement truly does to someone mentally, physically, and emotionally, I now sympathize greatly with the prisoners who have been condemned to this legal form of torture. This type of treatment is not something that America stands for, this is why every American needs to become informed on the topic, and understand that this treatment needs to be rid of.