Solitary confinement:modern torture may be more brutal than death
Albert Wood Fox has lived alone for nearly 45 years. From 1972 to 2016, he was imprisoned in a small cell in a Louisiana prison (the highest security prison in Angola), during which he had little contact with people.
Wood Fox has been in solitary confinement for more than 40 years, which may be longer than any prisoner in American history. Wood Fox can only stay outside the cell for one hour a day, and he can exercise and wash within this hour. The reason why Wood Fox was held in solitary confinement was that someone accused him of conspiracy with another prisoner to kill a prison guard, but there was no evidence that the two prisoners killed the guard.
After two trials, Wood Fox was finally released from prison in 2016. He always considered himself innocent. Detention in solitary confinement for decades has been tantamount to torture. After the release of inmates who have undergone solitary confinement, their mental health was severely damaged, making it difficult to establish contact with others. Some even committed suicide to seek relief.
Incommunicado imprisonment means that a prisoner has to be kept in a small cell for at least 22 hours a day without any contact with anyone. There is usually a bed, a sink, and a toilet in the cell. Meals are delivered to the room through a slot on the door, and the ceiling light in the room can always be on. Prisoners can come out of the cell for an hour a day, but they usually exercise in a cage or high wall.
Prisoners in solitary confinement usually wear shackles and have no access to anything entertaining or distracting. They do not have books, TVs or radios in their cells alone. Perhaps most shocking is that people around the world are often imprisoned in solitary confinement for reasons unrelated to bad behavior. Many people are usually held in solitary confinement before trial. In addition, children, ethnic minorities, homosexuals, transsexuals, or people with mental illness are more likely to be held in solitary confinement to protect them from other prisoners. Some prisoners will be held in solitary confinement for minor violations, such as scolding or ignoring orders.
Compared with other developed countries, as many as 100,000 prisoners in the United States are held in solitary confinement. The decision to detain a prisoner in solitary confinement is usually made by the administrative department, and the court does not intervene. Prison administrators can issue orders without external supervision, and prisoners usually cannot seek legal assistance.
The practice of solitary confinement of prisoners began in the United States in the late 18th century and was proposed by the Quakers as a means of protecting prisoners from whipping and public humiliation. In 1829, a state prison in eastern Pennsylvania began to try solitary confinement, but found that the prisoners either committed suicide or suffered from social disabilities, and eventually abandoned this practice. However, in 1934, a century later, solitary confinement was again staged in the Alcatraz prison of Alcatraz Island, and the most serious prisoners were held in solitary confinement in District D.
Despite this, this practice is still rare before 1983. Later, after two prison guards were killed by inmates at the Marion Federal Prison in Illinois, all the prisoners in this prison were put in the confinement room. After the matter calmed down, the prisoners were still unable to come out of the confinement room. Marion Federal Prison has thus become the first”super prison” in the United States, and all prisoners have to stay in the cells for at least 23 hours a day.
The number of inmates currently in solitary confinement is difficult to determine, but experts say that approximately 80,000 to 100,000 American inmates are held in solitary confinement. The figures do not include the number of people in juvenile detention centers, local prisons or immigration detention centers.
Pros and cons of solitary confinement of prisoners. Those who are in favor of this practice believe that solitary confinement can effectively protect the safety of prisoners, prison administrators and the public. Prisoners who molest children or prisoners who kill gang members are likely to be injured by other prisoners in the prison. Isolating these prisoners can protect them Security.
Meanwhile, solitary confinement It also makes it more difficult for prisoners to escape, providing the public with an extra layer of security and protection from high-risk criminals. In this regard, experts say that it is not necessarily a bad practice to isolate prisoners, but this practice must be used with caution and can only be used for a short period of time. The United Nations stated that no one should be quarantined for more than 15 days.
A study of solitary confinement in California’s Pelican Bay Prison found that long-term inmates often have multiple mental health problems, including depression and apathy , Hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, and excessive responses to external stimuli. They may also experience problems with thinking, attention, and memory, become angry and violent, have sleep disturbances or nightmares, and have dizziness, palpitations, and sweaty hands. These symptoms will persist for a long time after the prisoner is released or put back in the cell.
A large number of studies have shown that compared with traditional cells, inmates in solitary confinement have a higher self-mutilation rate and suicide rate. For example, in a 1999-2004 study of the California prison system, nearly half of the prisoners committed suicide due to solitary confinement. An analysis of the medical records of nearly 250,000 prisoners in New York City from 2010 to 2013 showed that 53.3%of the prisoners had self-harm and 45%of the prisoners had committed suicide.
Taxpayers also have to pay an economic price for psychological harm. Under the federal system, the solitary confinement of a prisoner costs $78,000 per year, while the average prisoner costs $58,000 per year.
Throughout history, solitary confinement is rarely practiced on prisoners. However, today’s prisoners often suffer for years in solitary confinement. Not only in the United States, many countries in the world have put those who are serving life sentences or death sentences in single cells, and they may stay there for decades. This practice is also often overused. Research by the Vera Institute of Justice found that 85%of solitary confinement prisoners in Illinois were held in single cells by prison guards because of extremely minor violations.
But the changes are in sight. More and more people and groups are calling for the cessation or strict restriction of solitary confinement. In January 2016, the then US President Barack Obama announced that the US Department of Justice had restricted the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons. Some states and cities have also made changes, and New York City has now banned solitary confinement for prisoners under the age of 21 who are physically or mentally impaired.