“It’s dehumanizing. No human contact. As [a] human being, I feel like we’re meant to socialize, and it does have an effect on your mentality while you’re sitting in the cell.”
By Michael Perez
Chase is an inmate who was interviewed for quantitative analysis in a study conducted by the American Public Health Association in 2020. The study focused on “psychological distress” in inmates in solitary confinement.
Prisoners are forced to live in unjust conditions within America’s correctional institutions. Although the criminal justice system is meant to lock away the most dangerous individuals in the country, it is not meant to dehumanize individuals.
According to a scholarly journal on health care administration in prisons published in Switzerland this year, security and health are treated equally. This means that one depends on the other and is not necessarily prioritized ethically.
Furthermore, that same article concludes that solitary confinement research indicates that the use of “incarceration is associated with and exacerbates negative health outcomes” and that healthcare is difficult to administer in “correctional settings.” Prisoners need more mental health treatment opportunities, even though many may not think they deserve them.
Solitary confinement conditions have even garnered attention from the prisoners themselves in a hunger strike in California just over a decade ago, according to a Northwestern University Law Review article published in Chicago this year.
A 2014 national survey published in 2015, sponsored by Yale Law School and Vital Projects Fund Inc placed a number for Americans to see just how much solitary confinement is being used in the United States. It indicated that around “80,000 to 100,000 people were in segregation.”
In a recent article published by PLoS One, solitary confinement is found to cause health problems after the inmates are released from incarceration. One startling study mentioned in the article states that prisoners that were in solitary confinement
in North Carolina “between 2000 and 2015 were 24% more likely to die in their first year after release than former prisoners who had not spent time in solitary confinement.”
Another study mentioned by the article shows that the mortality rate is similar in other countries, “Danish people who had spent time in solitary confinement had higher mortality within five years of being released from prison compared to those who never spent time in solitary confinement.”
The negative health effects of solitary confinement on current and former prisoners demonstrate the subpar treatment of prisoners. The treatment of prisoners in solitary confinement must be fair and humane, but further research is still needed.
Michael S. Perez has a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Seattle University. He’s currently in the Micro-Certificate in Technical Writing and Editing online program at Johnson and Wales University.
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