Solitary Confinement and the Effects on Inmates
Solitary confinement is a mandated arrangement set up by courts or prisons which seek to punish inmates by the use of isolated confinement. Specifically, solitary confinement can be defined as confinement in which inmates that are held in a single cell for up to twenty-three hours a day without any contact with the exception of prison staff (Shalev, 2011). There are several other terms which refer to solitary confinement such as, administrative segregation, supermax facilities (this is due to the fact that supermax facilities only have solitary confinement), the hotbox, the hole, and the security housing unit (SHU). Solitary confinement is a place where most inmates would prefer not to go. There are many reasons for this.
The cells in which inmates are kept are very small; they have a toilet, a shelf, a desk and a bed that contains a thin mattress (Shalev, 2011). Inmates are not allowed to have physical contact with their visitors. In fact, they cannot even see them face to face in certain facilities. Inmates cannot participate in any work activities, and only if the facility offers it can they receive small amounts of educational programs on a television on a secured circuit (Shalev, 2011). The only time inmates are permitted to leave their cell is to exercise inside a caged enclosure for about an hour a day. Most cells contain a solid door with a single slot so that inmates may be cuffed or received their meals. Also, depending on the facility they may have a small rectangular window in their cell that is extremely small. The most common way that inmates communicate is through shouting because the cells are set up so that no contact can be made to other inmates.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2005 there were a total of 1,375, 975 inmates, both male and female combined in both state and federal confinement facilities in the U.S. In addition, “Between 2000 and 2005 inmates held in maximum security facilities increased by 16%” (Stephan, 2005).
It was also found by O’Keefe et al. (2013) that the Colorado Department of Corrections has a total of 19,279 inmates for state and private prisons including solitary confinement. They also found that Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP) has 756 beds available for inmates who are sent to this confinement facility. The rise in the use of solitary confinement raises major questions about the prisoner’s mental health as well as how ethical solitary confinement really is.
Many researchers have found that long periods of time in solitary confinement can have negative mental effects on inmates. This is due to long-term confinement because it consists of not only prolonged deprivation of social interaction but also sensory deprivation (Haney, 2003). Medical ethics are also in question about the effects of long term confinement. Medical professionals have to handle a particularly difficult situation because they are required to provide medical...