Tuesday, September 04, 2012

How America Treats Prisoners Says More About America Than it Does About the Prisoners.

I'm convinced the United States of America will never be a police state -officially, that is- despite the fact that not only do we have the highest incarceration rate on the planet, we're one of the only nations in the world that continues the widespread use solitary confinement - a form of torture when it spans more than 15 days.  The arbitrary and biased processes for establishing who is placed in solitary, not to mention the total lack of oversight and regulation  makes this practice even more alarming.

Based on available data that does not include juveniles or immigrants over  80,000 prisoners, in 44 states  are in solitary confinement in the United States on any given day.

Since the 1980s, departments of corrections have sharply increased the use of segregation as a discipline and management tool. In effect, segregation is a secondary sentence imposed by the correctional facility—one that follows long after and usually is unrelated to the conviction for which the person is incarcerated. The consequences of holding an individual in these conditions over time may include new or exacerbated mental health disturbances, assaultive and other antisocial behaviors, and chronic and acute health disorders. In fact, studies show that prisoners who are released from segregation directly to the community reoffend at higher rates than general-population prisoners. Policy changes that will reduce the use and long-term impact of segregation will benefit not only the staff and prisoners in these units but also ultimately the well-being of facilities, systems, and the community.

"For us there is only one season, the season of sorrow. The very sun and moon seem taken from us." -- Oscar Wilde, 1897 about his time in solitary confinement

One must ask why America's incarceration rate is so high when the cost to imprison one American for one year is more than the cost of one year at Princeton. Solitary confinement is even more costly for obvious reasons.
"I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers; and in guessing at it myself, and in reasoning from what I have seen written upon their faces, and what to my certain knowledge they feel within, I am only the more convinced that there is a depth of terrible endurance in which none but the sufferers themselves can fathom, and which no man has a right to inflict upon his fellow creature. I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body; and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh; because its wounds are not upon the surface, and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear; therefore the more I denounce it, as a secret punishment which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay.." - Charles Dickens on solitary confinement



Links:

Lifetime Lockdown: How Isolation Conditions Impact Prisoner Reentry

Extreme Solitary Confinement - No Human Contact for 28 Years

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