Stop Prisons From Using Solitary Confinement

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Target: Dick Durbin, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights

Goal: Outlaw solitary confinement in U.S. prisons

Prisoners considered to pose physical danger to guards and other prison staff are often placed in solitary confinement, where they have no contact with other human beings except for the guards who bring them food. This practice has been shown by psychologists to have an extremely negative impact on the prisoners’ mental health, and leads to a sense of dehumanization that is felt by both the prisoners and the guards. Inmates subjected to this treatment are lucky to ever recover emotionally; if anything, it makes them more likely to be violent and return to crime if they are released. This practice is inhumane, and scientifically unsound. We ask that the Senate Committee on the Judiciary put an end to this damaging practice.

The ultimate goal of the prison system is to remove dangerous people from society and to rehabilitate those that are willing to change. Solitary confinement has been proven to do the exact opposite of rehabilitation. When placed in solitary confinement for extended periods of time (sometimes several decades), inmates become so emotionally numb that they feel as if they are dead. Many of them experience hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, and hyper-sensitivity to stimuli. About half of all successful prison suicides are committed by inmates in solitary confinement, despite them only making up about 5% of the prison population. This is unacceptable and needs to change.

Solitary confinement has been shown to have exclusively negative effects on the mental condition of inmates. The United Nations has urged the United States to end the practice of long-term solitary confinement, likening it to a form of torture. It is undeniably counterproductive to rehabilitation, and it has no place in a democracy. We ask that the Senate Committee on the Judiciary review the science of solitary confinement, and outlaw the practice nation-wide.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Durbin,

Solitary confinement is used around the country as a way of dealing with supposedly dangerous prisoners. However, the practice is so devastating to those subjected to it that it makes rehabilitation almost impossible. Inmates in solitary confinement go through stages of intense psychological distress, leading eventually to hallucinations, paranoia, panic attacks, and, not uncommonly, suicide. The U.N. has likened solitary confinement to a form of torture, and urged the U.S. to end the use of this practice.

The science on this topic is so unanimous that it cannot be ignored. Solitary confinement only does one thing: continuously degrade the mental health of inmates. It leads to dehumanization from both the perspective of the guards and the inmates themselves. There are no positive outcomes to this practice, and it is an affront to democracy to allow it to continue. We urge you to consider the vast scientific evidence showing that solitary confinement is counterproductive and psychologically devastating, and to mandate an end to this practice nation-wide.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Cea. via Flickr

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