Solitary Confinement: A Cruel And Unusual Punishment

916 words - 4 pages

While solitary confinement is one of the most effective ways of keeping todays prisoners from conflict and communication it is also the most detrimental to their health. According to an article by NPR.org the reason for most solitary confinement units in America “is to control the prison gangs (NPR, 2011).” Sometimes putting a gang member in solitary confinement reduces the effect that confinement is supposed to have when the confined inmate starts losing their mind. The prisoners kept in solitary confinement show more psychotic symptoms than that of a normal prisoner, including a higher suicide rate. Once a prisoner’s mental capacity to understand why he or she is in prison and why they are being punished is gone, there is no reason to keep said prisoner in solitary confinement. Once your ability to understand punishment is gone the consequences of your actions lose value and become irrelevant.
Many people have tried to stop the use of solitary confinement by calling it “Cruel and Unusual Punishment. (Holt vs. Sarver, 1969).” People also say that it is a direct violation of our eighth amendment rights. The definition of cruel and unusual punishment is as follows: “Such punishment as would amount to torture or barbarity, any cruel and degrading punishment not known to the Common Law, or any fine, penalty, confinement, or treatment that is so disproportionate to the offense as to shock the moral sense of the community. (Farflex Inc., 2011).” Studies show that solitary confinement can alter the mental state of a prisoner so far that it is detrimental to his or her health; I see no reason why this cannot be classified as cruel and unusual punishment. In an experiment conducted by the BBC’s Horizon group, they studied the effects of total isolation on a human for twenty four hours, what they found was astounding. Only 10 hours into the experiment the subjects were seen pacing, rocking back and forth, and convulsing. About 15 hours in to the experiment the subjects reported seeing things and having strange hallucinations. One woman saw a zebra driving around a little car in her cell (BBC, 2008).
Why these sensory deprived individuals shut down mentally is explained in an article by the University of Indiana. “Not only do sensory inputs keep us from getting bored, they also keep our brains functioning within healthy parameters. Should we lose access to natural light, social interaction and physical touch, we quickly begin to unravel. Surprisingly, research shows that even 15 minutes of near-total sensory deprivation can cause hallucinations on par with psychedelics. (University, 2011)”
After the BBC experiment many websites and doctors started examining the breakthrough study. The university article also states that “The results were startling. Individuals paced neurotically in their cells, and some reported visions of oysters, zebras and tiny cars. Psychological tests administered before and after the ordeal demonstrated significant...

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