Solitary Confinement is Torture
Solitary confinement is the practice of confining a person in a tiny cell for 22-24 hrs per day. Human beings are social creatures, and we need regular contact with other humans in order to maintain our health, well-being and sanity. Depriving a person of nearly all contact with others can cause irreversible psychological damage in as little as 2 weeks. There is no research to support prison administrators' claims that solitary confinement serves any rehabilitative purpose; on the contrary, multiple studies confirm that solitary confinement is emotionally, physically and psychologically destructive and greatly reduces a prisoner's chances at successful reintegration into society. In isolation, the mentally ill become more unstable, while healthy prisoners begin to exhibit mental illness after only a short time. Approximately 50% of prison suicides occur in solitary confinement. Solitary confinement targets prisoners of color most severely, reinforcing oppressive and unconscionable patterns of racism. It is extensively used to retaliate against those who file lawsuits or speak out against violations of their human and constitutional rights. Ninety days in solitary can easily turn into 10 years or more. Guards in these units regularly abuse male and female prisoners physically, psychologically, and sexually, and deny them basic needs such as meals, shower, water, and visits.
Solitary Confinement is a Threat to Public Safety
At least 80,000 prisoners today are held in solitary confinement in the U.S., at least 2,500 of them in Pennsylvania state prisons. Most have little or no access to mental health care, and are forced to live in conditions that increase the likelihood of self-harm, suicide, and violence towards others. This danger ripples outward when prisoners who have been kept in solitary are released into general population, often resulting in violent altercations that are used as a justification to continually cycle them back into solitary. People max out their sentences in solitary confinement, and then without any re-socialization therapy are dumped back into society, harmed and unable to cope, resulting in increased violence and instability in our communities. The practice of solitary confinement is widespread, is significantly more expensive than regular prison housing, and our prisons' reliance on it as a means of intimidation and repression is causing tens of thousands of people in this country to suffer in torturous conditions for months, years, and decades at a time.
Solitary Confinement Must Be Abolished
Solitary confinement has become the dominant weapon in a war on prisoners that is in reality a war on our brothers, sisters, parents, children, families, and friends behind the walls. Torture is a crime and a serious threat to public safety and it must be abolished. The rampant use of solitary confinement and the construction of Supermax prisons are recent in history; this practice can and must be stopped. No other country in the world uses solitary confinement as much as the U.S., and other states have already taken steps to reduce its use. The Human Rights Coalition calls upon all people to join us in demanding the abolition of solitary confinement in Pennsylvania. Together we will build a society that respects the rights of all people, values rehabilitation, and does not believe in “throw-away” people.
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