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The American Penal System Essay

1472 words - 6 pages

Imagine living your life inside of an enclosed, seven by twelve foot, concrete cell. The only access you have to outside world is the small slot in the door used for delivering medication and food, and a tiny window, used by the guards to make sure you are alive and breathing. The fact that they even have to check if you are alive should be a red flag to society. You are here for twenty three hours a day with only one hour of “recreation” outside of this cell. This time can be used to shower, workout or make a phone call, but you are still isolated. You are here locked up for weeks, months, or maybe even years. Throughout this whole time, you are left alone with no meaningful activity; just yourself and your thoughts, which can eventually drive you mad. This is solitary confinement. According to the Washington Post's “The Torture of Solitude,” “The United States holds the highest number of prisoners in solitary confinement of any democratic nation...” This is what approximately 80,000 prisoners across America have to suffer through. This is what the rest of the United States population should consider immoral. Solitary confinement was first introduced as a “humane alternative to hanging almost two hundred years ago” (ABS News). Yet there is nothing humane about it. The American Penal System needs to ban long term solitary confinement because it is unnecessary, inhumane, and ineffective.
Many sentences of solitary confinement are unnecessary because many prisoners do not deserve such a harsh punishment. Deciding to place a criminal in solitary should be a last resort. Prison is a good enough punishment for people who have committed petty crimes. It is unnecessary for them to be placed in solitary, if they are not a danger to themselves or others around them. According to an investigative report released by The New York Civil Liberties Union, or NYCLU, “Last year, New York doled out more than 13,500 extreme isolation sentences... only 16 percent of isolation sentences from 2007 to 2011 were for assault or weapons.” That leaves us 84 percent of these sentences that were probably unnecessary and could have been solved in other ways. Most prisons will place an inmate in solitary just for breaking the rules of the prison. This could be not following directions from the guards or getting in a minor fight or argument with another inmate. Once a person is in solitary confinement, their punishment can easily be extended for minor misbehavior. Passing notes under their doors, otherwise know as rat lining, or hiding notes in books can result in an additional six months added to their sentence. There are no guidelines for why people get sent to isolation or for how long they have to stay there. Prisons are using it as a first resort, which is completely unjustified. If an inmate is not violent or severely dangerous, there is no need for solitary confinement.
The long term use of solitary confinement is cruel and inhumane. Humans are meant to be social...

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