Saturday, June 30, 2012
Solitary Confinement: An Ecology of Cruelty
I’ve always had an overall negative impression of solitary confinement. In my book, it seems like cruel and usual punishment. Humans are wired to have social interaction. Without it, insanity can ensue (quite literally) and can facilitate a hostile psychological state.
I never quite knew the extent solitary confinement was used. The testimony provided by Dr. Haney really provided me with more factual evidence on the use of solitary confinement. It is being used more and more since its introduction in the 1970’s. Also, it runs on the basis of racial discrimination, with 90% of those confined being black. I think his analysis of the issue both indicates the psychological complexity behind solitary confinement, as well as the seemingly aloof attitude of law enforcement around the issue.
The immense occurrences of mental instability in those who are and have been solitary confined are unspeakable. The fact that much of the mental illness that occurs during the solitary confinement process shows the true nature of the practice. With this onset, I think it is reasonable to conclude how cruel it truly is. How can they justify such a practice? It is obvious by the symptoms and state’s of mind experienced by the prisoner’s including significantly increased negative attitudes irritability, aggression and even rage; many experience chronic insomnia, free floating anxiety, fear of impending emotional breakdowns, a loss of control, and panic attacks(Haney, 10).
It was called in Haney’s paper an “ecology of cruelty” which I think reflects the true negative state of the environment created by solitary confinement. It forces prisoners into a mental state of anguish and insanity. The absence of meaningful social interaction (they are not even permitted visitors) has a massive psychological impact that is nothing less than cruel. The fact that this type of practice is permitted says something about our culture and legal system. We fight the convicted and label them villains, without a once of humanity or compassion given to them. It is truly unspeakable, what they are doing.