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Posted By Emre Umar

With mental health continuing to be a major topical issue in contemporary news, the state of treatment of prisoners with mental illness not only will constantly become a conversation, but should be.  In New York particularly, but around the nation, it has become an appealing trend to not simply lock up the mentally ill but to contain them within solitary confinement.  There are good reason why solitary is depicted in pop culture as being a closet-sized space that can drive sane men insane: because that is in fact what it has shown to do.  The mentally ill then, especially, should not be confined to such an experience.

            Regardless of the mental state of a detainee, the average cost of housing someone in solitary confinement is roughly $78,000.  This figure is triple that of normal prison containment.  Back in the 20th century, a stay in solitary would last anywhere from a few days to, in the most extreme cases, a few weeks.  Currently, time spent in these confined, windowless, closet-sized boxes can span years.  Human contact is limited to the small slit in the door where food is dispensed, and even exercised has a one-hour limit.  These regulations are the general norm for any patient, regardless of mental state.  A mentally ill prisoner is expected to behave and react to solitary in the exact same manner as an average individual.

            Reports of “insanity” are not uncommon.  Reports have detailed inmates mutilating their own genitals or developing fixations on ordinarily mundane aspects of life such as urination, among other things resulting from dwindling impulse control.  Others experience hallucinations, panic attacks, and severe paranoia.  Regardless of the cause, the result is always the same: a prisoner confined in solitary is a huge danger to himself as his mental state continues to suffer.  Currently anywhere from one-fifth to two-thirds of the prison population in solitary confinement went in with a mental illness.  The guidelines of the Justice Department have made some headway, recognizing that the extreme isolation of solitary can pose drastic psychological risks to already at-risk prisoners.  We can do more.

1 Comment(s):
Sonni Quick said...
It is good to see that more attention is being paid to the effect of solitary confinement on all levels; juvenile detention, jail and prison. To often it is used if an inmate responds to negative treatment by guards so they increase time. G5, adseg and solitary are basically the same thing. Is it that guards don't have enough training our education? Does the ego inflate because of wearing a uniform of authority?False cases are filed in retaliation when an inmate questions things done to them.I am no exonerating all inmates. There are good and bad people on both sides of the cell door. But nothing is going to change unless the way inmates are dealt changes. What I read on this site is encouraging. I hope the effort is real and not just something for people to read so they think you are looking for positive resolutions.
August 15, 2016 07:48:39
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