Monitor and reduce solitary confinement

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The way we are using solitary confinement in prisons today needs to be adjusted as there are many negative effects (especially with juveniles and people with mental disabilities.)  While there may be some good uses of solitary (such as separating people who pose harm to others in prison) for the most part it is more costly and has negative consequences for society.

Solitary Confinement is when a prisoner is locked up in a room by himself for 23 hours a day.  In that final hour you are allowed to go into a room by yourself that is more open but still by yourself.   Most solitary confinement cells are only 6" X 9" and because of the lack of movement and socialization prisoners experience trauma.  Because of the lack of movement many prisoners also experience muscle deterioration and blood clotting. The lack of social interaction has negative effects which start a mere 2 days from being put into solitary and they start experiencing hallucinations and start talking to themselves or get suicidal.  These problems persist even post solitary as the brain is altered permanently after a mere two weeks in solitary. Even after being released from solitary, people not only find it hard to reenter society and get jobs but also more likely to commit suicide or homicide.

In my research among the several people I interviewed, I was most fascinated and informed by a former prisoner who spent 17 years in solitary confinement on death row for a crime he didn't commit and the former sheriff of a jail.  According to them, many of the prison guards that work in solitary are the newest recruits who often don't know how to treat prisoners and, while some of them were nice, many of them were scared and tried to stay away as much as they could leaving the prisoners not only by themselves but ignored.  Prisoner responded to this neglect by acting out in way that either made them sick or hurt so they could be moved to the infirmary.

While some progress has been made with bills trying to limit juveniles and people with mental disabilities it is not enough.  Currently the only way for a person who is unjustly put into solitary to have a chance of release is to hire a lawyer and go to court where the lawyer argues that for them solitary confinement is a cruel and unusual punishment.  However, this doesn't work because many people lack the literacy skills or funds to hire a lawyer or the court will release the inmate from solitary a few days prior to trial making the case moot. Often, a few weeks later (after the court was set) these prisoners are put back into solitary starting the process over again.

My solution is to make a mandatory trial for each and every prisoner who goes into solitary.  This way it is not up to the prison guards if a person is worthy (based on mental disability or age) to go into solitary.  This would limit the number of people going into solitary on two fronts. One, the prison would attempt to put less people into solitary in order to save time in court and two, if a person is being placed into solitary with a mental disability this could stop them from being placed into solitary and instead get them psychiatric help.



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