Some may argue that consecutive
6-month solitary confinement sentences is allowable if the sentences are for
separate charges or the inmate consistently poses a threat to the prison staff
and other inmates. However, extensive solitary confinement often causes serious
psychological harm to the inmates. Therefore, spending a full year in solitary
confinement should be considered cruel and unusual.
the late 1700’s, the Quakers built the Walnut Street Jail, and later, the
Eastern State Penitentiary, both of which operated with solitary confinement of
the prisoners to focus on penitence. This often drove prisoners mad and made
them unfit to be released into society. Reformers have since changed prison
practices to allow inmates to socialize, keeping them mentally stable. However,
the practice of extensive solitary confinement takes prisons back to the Quaker
system, which is generally agreed to be cruel and unusual.
keeping inmates in near total isolation, with little human contact, can
deteriorate the mental health of inmates. Solitary Housing Unit Syndrome poses
a threat to the safety of the inmate, as it could cause them to commit suicide.
Those that are released from solitary confinement may have developed a mental
illness, making them unstable. Mentally ill inmates may have a harder time
conforming to the prison norms, posing a threat to those around them or
themselves. Prisons often do not have a way to reduce the threat, other than
placing the inmate back into solitary confinement. Inmates that do develop a
mental illness in solitary confinement often do not have adequate access to
psychological counseling, either in solitary or after release into the general
a normal length sentence in solitary confinement is enough to lead any inmate
into a reduced mental state. Spending a full year could present even worse,
more permanent issues. If the inmate is released in poor mental condition, they
can present a serious danger to themselves and those around them. This practice
is a throwback to the Quaker system, which has already been shown to be
ineffective, deleterious, and cruel and unusual.