Solitary confinement borders cruel and unusual punishment due to its association to extreme mental illnesses of its prisoners. Studies have shown healthy people obtaining mental illnesses after being confined for a short period of time. For most people this association, as well as its high cost to maintain the use of solitary confinement, is enough to stop the use of this style of incarseration and closing strictly solitary prisons. Others believe that restoring rehabilitating activities and medical attention for prisoners is more preferable than closing the prisons, because the prison is the prime employer of the small towns they were built in.
Visual and auditory hallucinations, insomnia and paranoia, uncontrollable feelings of rage and fear, PTSD, depression, and anxiety are associated with solitary confinement. The prisoner can generate irritation of routine noises, like the closing and opening of their cell doors. This irritation provokes them to be violent and makes them more of a danger to security and other inmates. Contracting these violent behaviors while in solitary confinement is called Special Housing Unit (SHU) syndrome. The majority of the symptoms of SHU syndrome are found in people who have had a major event happened that has caused a big change in their life, more often a life-threatening situation that happened to them while in prison.
The prisoners that are confined in there for protection may have been assaulted by another prisoner or cell mate and lash out from fear or anger, or have serious thoughts of harming thereselves afterwards. In 2001 Human Rights Watch reported that “Victims of prison rape commonly report nightmares, deep depression, shame, loss of self-esteem, self-hatred, and considering or attempting suicide. Some of them also describe a marked increase in anger and a tendency toward violence.” (Update: Prisoners’ Rights). Being assaulted physically can cause deep emotional and psychological problems that will worsen ovr time without proper medical treatment. When being confined, they are deprived of any medical treatment that they need, unless they are to harm themselves while being confined. The scarce treatment they would get would be followed up by an admittance into a psychiactric ward.
The deprivation of this treatment leaves the prisoners to blame them self for what happens, amplifies any mental problems, and prevents them from receiving medication. The prevention of medical treatment and drugs of the confined are not just their problem, the general prisoner is unable to have sufficient medical care and cannot partake in any educational programs while imprisoned. This problem was occurring before the building of the majority of SHU’s in little towns, both were part of being tough on crime and were popular political decisions. What often keeps them from closing is that they are prime employers of the small towns they are built in, along with the overflow of prisoners in other prisons. Part of being tough...