Have you ever needed alone time? Just a minute to yourself to re-evaluate a situation. Could you handle 3 months without speaking to or touching another human? Possibly, being forced to do this in a 6 foot by 6 foot steel walled cage with uneven temperatures, lights on or off all day and only a couple of pieces of bread to eat? If you could you may win the next Survivor series. Or even better maybe you could handle a stint in the clink. Welcome to the world of solitary confinement, it’s much more than a time out or a cooling down period like the rest of us free citizens call enjoyment. Unfortunately, it’s not just for adult prisoners, there’s a rise in juvenile solitary confinement. As the United States government and citizens finally lift the social distortion veil hovering over mental health issues, we cannot leave prisoners own health out of the unveiling. Solitary confinement must be banished from our entire legal system due to its destructive force on prisoner’s mental health causing an unconstitutional use of cruel and unusual punishment combined with a lack of due process due from arbitrary and capricious solitary confinement sentences. Solitary confinement exacerbates the cycle of mental illness unconstitutionally.
Shockingly Sadistic Statistics
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in an average year nearly 20% of prisoners spend time in solitary confinement. Even worse, it’s the youngest members of our prison system that spend the highest percentage of time in solitary confinement-up to 30% are 18 to 19 years old. Juvenile detention centers have become complete lockdowns. Cook County Juvenile Detention Center enforced solitary confinement 55,000 times within a 2 year period. They usually only house 200 kids, yes kids. So how many times are these kids being confined to four walls? Inmates with mental health, termed Serious Psychological Distress, have the highest incidences of solitary confinement 30% in prisons and 22% in jails. These statistics are just the beginning of the egregious injustices of prisoners.
Mental Health Deterioration
What can solitary confinement do to someone without mental health issues? Bluntly stated, it will cause it. Solitary confinement can cause visual and auditory hallucinations, hypersensitivity to noise and touch, insomnia and paranoia, post-traumatic stress disorder and increased risk of suicide. Prisoners that already have mental issues, the highest percentage of solitary confinement, will have exacerbated effects of their existing conditions. It is stated that these prisoners will be refused their mental therapy and medical treatments. Could causing mental health issues and denying mental health medical treatment be unconstitutional? In the short answer yes. In the long answer it creates trends of crime linked to mental illness-our majority of prisoners and criminals have mental illness backgrounds.
Unconstitutional Institutional Methods of Imprisonment
The Eight Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from “cruel and unusual punishment”. The Furman v. Georgia SCOTUS case defined cruel and unusual as; any punishment that is so sever as to degrade human dignity, including torture, a punishment that would be rejected by society or a punishment that is clearly and blatantly unnecessary. Since solitary confinement creates mental health illness in most cases it can be clearly proof of the degradation of human dignity. This human dignity is created through torturous methods while in solitary confinement including excessive light or darkness, uneven temperatures, lack of food, stun guns and other torture techniques. The role of the citizens of this great country is to create a balance of equality under all laws in every case. We must stop solitary confinement as a responsibility to uphold our national Constitution.
Inmates have received their punishment through Due Process. They have had legal representation and by Constitutional right have been sentenced. Solitary confinement is sentenced by a jury of none-a warden and guards who clearly have a bias in the process decide the fate of prison infractions. The 8th Amendment protects US citizens from punishments enforced in an arbitrary manner. A citizen does not lose their right to Due Process within the confines of a prison under the 14th Amendment which provides both Due Process and Equality Under the Law. Even though society and the law does not consider them “free” citizens they are still citizens protected by the Constitution. They have been imprisoned, they have not denounced their citizenship. The only person that can sentence a citizen of this country is a judge through Due Process and all states must provide equality under that system. Solitary confinement is a clear violation of both prisoners’ rights and the Constitution.
The Future Trends of Society Are Confined
As discussed earlier an increasing amount of youth prisoners are being arbitrarily sentenced to solitary confinement. They suffer the same burdens of torture as older prisoners. Studies have proven that mental illness without proper care and treatment is a vicious cycle that will only create more victims and offenders. If solitary confinement for children does not cease, we could have a new generation of mentally ill recidivists. We must enforce the rights of the Constitution to all American citizens, prisoners are doing their time. It is our responsibility to stop the cycle of mental illness that becomes crime. If we want safer streets, we must provide safety for prisoners.