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Solitary Confinement: Literature Review

Solitary confinement became a popular practice for isolating individuals and was
introduced in the western prison system in the early nineteenth century. A concrete windowless
seven by eight foot room is where these prisoners are kept. Confinement is used in prison
systems as a disciplinary punishment for prisoners that are at risk to escape, risk to others, or at
risk to themselves. Some prisoners have chosen to be placed in isolation to avoid harassment.
There have been many debates on whether the effects of solitary confinement appeared to be
effective. In the 1950s, solitary confinement was considered to be inhumane and became much
less common for punishment for convicted offenders. During the 1980s, solitary confinement
slowly began to regain its recognition and was once again a common punishment used in prison
Life in solitary confinement consist of spending at the least twenty three hours a day in a
cell that is usually six by eight feet, these dimensions were determined by scientist. Prisoners
meals generally get delivered through a small hole located in the middle of the cells steel doors,
which is also the inmates way of talking to guards. Some prisoners are allowed to exercise one
hour a day, in another slightly larger confined space. Inmates in solitary confinement are
typically denied phone calls, supplies, and visits.
Outsiders believe solitary confinement is a place for the most hardened inmates, however
breaking basic rules can earn a prisoner time in the hole. Conducted studies have shown that
prisoners placed in solitary confinement are more likely to reoffend outside of prison as a result.

Inmates can be isolated in solitary confinement for years. The use of solitary confinement is said
to help an inmate with social control or mental health treatment. The legal status of the US
complies that it is unconstitutional to isolate a prisoner in solitary confinement until the
prisoners actions are reviewed.
Neurologist suggests that solitary confinement can dramatically restructure a humans
brain after only a few days. The prisoner lacks interaction with humans and basic everyday
possessions. Because of this, prisoners that have faced the hole, are known to have many issues
prior to the punishment. Neurologists believe that isolating a human being can actually shrink
the hippocampus which is part of the brain controlling memory, emotions, and orientation.
Doctors have stated that because of solitary confinement many inmates are experiencing these
An independent investigation was done on prisoners in 2006 and reported that the most
vulnerable prisoners, not violent, ended up in solitary confinement. Studies have shown that
prisoners that have spent time in solitary confinement develop Special Housing Unit Syndrome
(SHU). Symptoms of SHU include oversensitivity to noise and touch, hallucinations, paranoia,
uncontrollable feelings, distortion of perception, increased risk of suicide and PTSD (Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Solitary confinement for decades has been considered a black sight and many people are
unaware of the topic. The number of people put in solitary confinement is increasing. More than
30% of prisoners put in solitary are considered mentally ill. These people are not being treated in

the right way. The use of solitary is only making them crazier. The fight to stop solitary
confinement is considered almost impossible. The U.S. courts are lined up not to change
anything, and the government has the same mindset. Polls have shown that the majority of
Americans oppose the use of solitary confinement. However the same inhumane conditions
continue to be practiced. A widespread issue on solitary confinement has begun to receive media
attention however has yet to find an alternative.
The department of corrections states that inmates who are a threat to other prisoners or
guards will be placed in isolation, if they are unable to control themselves. However in many
different situations this rule has broken. Inmates have been placed in solitary for minor offences
such as disrespecting a guard. Americas isolation system is very uncommon and harsh. The
violent crimes happening every day are a tough issue to deal with. However the use of
incarcerating a prisoner in isolation for decades is not the correct way to deal with the situation.
This way of punishment has been challenged by many experts, however nothing has been done.
The United States needs to focus more on the rehabilitation of prisoners, instead of an abusive
and cruel management tool. In my opinion solitary confinement is equivalent to torture. The
world should rid of solitary confinement, or at least reduce the time a prisoner spends in solitary.

Works Cited

"Solitary Confinement." American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.

"Solitary Confinement Facts." Solitary Confinement Facts. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.

"Torture: The Use of Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons." Center for Constitution RSS. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2014.