Torture In Prison

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These similarities aren’t by chance, or even unexpected. In fact, in a US military study quoted by Gawande, “almost a hundred and fifty naval aviators returning from imprisonment in Vietnam, reported that they found social isolation to be as torturous and agonizing as any physical abuse they suffered” (Gawande, 2009). Thus, it seems very clear that the psychological agony imposed by prolonged isolation in US prisons is frighteningly similar to the torture experienced by prisoners of war overseas. The United States has a long (if nuanced) history of condemning torture, and in a previous report to the UN, the US submitted that torture was “categorically denounced as a matter of policy and as a tool of state authority” (Human Rights Watch, 2009). …show more content…

Solitary, they maintain, is a correction officer’s last resort against violent inmates, who pose a danger both to themselves and to others. Mike Powers, a corrections officer in Northern New York, and the head of the state prison guard union, discussed the need for solitary in a recent interview with North County Public Radio. Powers resents the reputation solitary confinement has garnered in national news, and asserts that his prison’s solitary holding units, or SHUs, “are not dungeons” (North Country Public Radio, 2015). Solitary advocates like Powers maintain that confinement cells are an essential piece of a necessary incarceration approach. Solitary, Powers argues, is “used strategically to maintain order and safety” (North Country Public Radio, 2015). This argument presents solitary as a solution rather than a problem, a way to isolate violent offenders, keep order in oftentimes chaotic environments, and protect the prison population at large from especially dangerous inmates. For critics of solitary confinement, it can often feel like an argument with a frustratingly simple foundation: what else are corrections officers supposed to do? This question, however, as well as the argument in full, deserves consideration in any serious discussion of solitary …show more content…

The experience and effects of solitary confinement on US inmates are frighteningly similar to the experiences of many prisoners of war, who’ve been tortured abroad. These similarities should be enough to convince us of the inhumanity of prolonged isolation. Additionally, the only real argument for solitary confinement (that its necessary in combating prison violence) is proven largely irrelevant by evidence suggesting that widespread use of solitary confinement does not make prisons less violent, but can increase violence in individual prisoners, and make them less capable of reintegrating into larger communities. Many prison systems have begun to experiment with safer alternatives to solitary, often with excellent results. In Mississippi, for example, prisons began incentivizing solitary inmates with time out of their cell to play basketball or interact with others in exchange for good behavior (Walters & Maine, 2014). Similarly, in Maine, prisons have decreased the infractions that lead to a stint in solitary and combined incentives with increased counseling and mental health services for those inmates in isolation, and have seen decreases in violence and a huge drop in the solitary population (Barber, 2012). While these programs only offer a first step, they provide clear evidence that prison systems

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