Solitary confinement refers to the type of imprisonment in which the inmate is separated from other prisoners and placed in a room without any human contact, apart from the prison staff. This form of punishment has been around for some time; in the United States, for example, solitary confinement developed in the 1800s and is still practiced until today.
There are lots of prisoners who have been handed this punishment. Thomas Silverstein, who was convicted of murder, has been in solitary confinement since 1983 and holds the record for being in solitary confinement for the longest time in a U.S. federal prison. An unnamed inmate had marked his 40th year in solitary confinement in Pelican Bay State Prison in 2013, although it’s unclear if he continues to live on today.
Solitary confinement has gained many proponents over years who believe that it’s one of the most effective forms of punishment, but it also has critics who say that it’s cruel and inhumane. If you haven’t decided which side you should be on, you have to learn more about the pros and cons of solitary confinement.
List of Pros of Solitary Confinement
1. It helps inmates reflect on what they did wrong.
One of the reasons why people are put in prison is to give them the time to reflect on their actions. But, in reality, it’s hard for them to do so since they’re always distracted by their fellow inmates as well as the chores and activities they’re required to do. Solitary confinement solves this problem by putting inmates in a quiet place where they have the time and space to think about the crimes they’ve committed and hopefully realize what they’ve done wrong.
2. It prevents inmates from committing suicide.
Inmates are banned from having knives and other sharp objects, but they still have access to other things that they can use to harm themselves. Some use bed sheets, towels, phone cords, and even pieces of clothing like bras and socks to hang themselves from sprinklers and other objects. Others suffocated themselves to death by using trash bags and stuffing towels down their throats.
These deaths can be prevented by putting inmates who have high risk for suicide in solitary confinement. By doing this, they can be closely monitored by prison staff round the clock who’ll ensure that they won’t have access to anything that’s potentially dangerous and can be used for self-harm.
3. It prevents inmates from harming others.
Many inmates enter prisons with existing psychological problems or develop mental health issues while they’re incarcerated, and these psychological issues can push them to harm their fellow inmates. Numerous prisoners are also naturally short-tempered and have the capacity to harm other prisoners over little spats. Keeping these people in solitary confinement ensures that they won’t have the chance to harm or even kill others. Of course, it prevents them from escaping and protects the general population from these hardened criminals.
4. It discourages inmates from taking part in illegal activities.
The threat of solitary confinement is often enough to keep prisoners in line and discourage them from smuggling drugs and other contraband into prison, inciting riots, or running away. Many inmates don’t want to lose the little freedom they enjoy inside ordinary prisons and try their best not to end up in solitary confinement.
5. It protects prisoners from their fellow inmates.
Inmates get along relatively well, but there are those who are shunned and even harmed by their fellow prisoners because of the crimes they’d done. One example of this is pedophiles, who are often unpopular because they target children. By putting these people in solitary confinement, they can avoid getting beat up by their fellow prisoners and finish their sentence without being bullied and picked on.
List of Cons of Solitary Confinement
1. It can harm prisoners’ mental health.
Studies have shown that solitary confinement can cause prisoners to develop mental health problems and exacerbate existing psychological issues. One of the main reasons for this is that those in solitary confinement can’t enjoy human interaction and communication, which are important in maintaining good mental health. By forcing inmates to stare at blank walls for days and months and have nothing interesting to do, prison staff can put inmates in a position where they can easily develop psychological distress.
2. It can also harm physical health.
When they’re placed in solitary confinement, inmates don’t have the freedom to go to the prison’s grounds and talk walks or just soak up the sunshine, so they spend most of their days sitting down. This lack of exercise and exposure to Vitamin D makes them more prone to developing a wide range of illnesses. Add this to the fact that inmates in solitary confinement often don’t get immediate medical attention, and it’s easy to see how their illnesses can develop into major disorders.
3. It impinges on prisoners’ human rights.
Prisoners are human beings, too, and putting them in solitary confinement is often seen by many as an impingement on their human rights. It can be considered as torture because, although it doesn’t expose inmates to physical harm, it makes them go through severe mental and emotional suffering.
4. It may not always be effective.
As mentioned above, one of the purposes of solitary confinement is to rehabilitate prisoners and help them realize their wrongdoings. However, in reality, this doesn’t always happen since most inmates in solitary confinement focus on the harshness of their punishment and think of their lack of human touch and interaction instead of meditating about their actions. As a result, when they’re released from their prison, they end up having mental and emotional issues (which can spur them into committing crimes or harming themselves) instead of being transformed into model citizens.
Solitary confinement is a good choice in certain situations, particularly when it comes to the safety of prisoners, but it also comes with its own disadvantages. Because of this, government officials and prison staff must carefully weigh the pros and cons to decide if they’d use solitary confinement as a punishment or not.