Solitary Confinement Essay

1869 words - 7 pages

Since the early 1800s, the United States has relied on a method of punishment barely known to any other country, solitary confinement (Cole). Despite this method once being thought of as the breakthrough in the prison system, history has proved differently. Solitary confinement was once used in a short period of time to fix a prisoners behavior, but is now used as a long term method that shows to prove absolutely nothing. Spending 22-24 hours a day in a small room containing practically nothing has proved to fix nothing in a person except further insanity. One cannot rid himself of insanity in a room that causes them to go insane. Solitary confinement is a flawed and unnecessary method of punishment that should be prohibited in the prison system.
In the 18th century, the Quakers thought of solitary confinement as a “spiritual renovation” (Griest). According to Stephanie Griest in her Wilson Quarterly Issue:
At the time, convicts were typically hanged, flogged, or tossed into wretchedly overcrowded dungeons. What these prisoners needed, Quakers argued, was a spiritual renovation. Give a man ample time and quiet space to reflect upon his misdeeds, and he will recover his bond with God. He will grieve. He will repent. He will walk away a rehabilitated man.
Solitary confinement was never intended to be a method of punishment. The Quakers were known to have no tolerance with their convicts. Many of them were hung or thrown in pits to die. Their idea of solitary confinement shows their original true intention of this method. Quakers argued that if you “Give a man ample time and quiet space to reflect upon his misdeeds, and he will recover his bond with God. He will repent. He will walk away a rehabilitated man.” (Griest). The idea of one being able to “walk away a rehabilitated man” has been forgotten in the current day prison system.
As the methods of punishment began to change, the prison system evolved. In 1829 the Eastern State Penitentiary was built, a major “breakthrough”. Despite at the time people considering the Eastern State Penitentiary a major breakthrough, thoughts later changed in the years to follow. Under the eighth amendment, cruel and unusual punishment is forbidden, however, that law stopped absolutely nothing. Inside the walls of the Eastern State Penitentiary, every action had a consequence. In the winter, if inmates were to misbehave they would get chained to the wall and have buckets of cold water thrown on them. In the summer they would get chained to a chair for days. It is bad enough most of the people in Eastern State were in solitary confinement, let alone getting strapped to a chair for days. If they continued to misbehave, an iron gag was placed over the mouth of the prisoner (Griest). The prisoners at Eastern State Penitentiary were clearly subject to cruel and unusual punishment. By the time Eastern State closed its doors in 1971, it was widely seen as a failure.
The definition of cruel or unusual punishment...

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