The Torture of Solitary Confinement

George Will’s latest column suggests that the use of solitary confinement in American prisons is tantamount to torture, particularly when used for extended periods of time.

 Isolation changes the way the brain works, often making individuals moreimpulsive, less able to control themselves. The mental pain of solitary confinement is crippling: Brain studies reveal durable impairments and abnormalities in individuals denied social interaction. Plainly put, prisoners often lose their minds.

Apparently one-half of prison suicides are committed by inmates in solitary, and such confinement is more expensive to boot.

Mass incarceration is expensive (California spends almost twice as much on prisons as on universities) and solitary confinement costs, on average, three times as much per inmate as in normal prisons. And remember: Most persons now in solitary confinement will someday be back on America’s streets, some of them rendered psychotic by what are called correctional institutions.

Argues Will, Americans should be roused to oppose the reliance on solitary confinement by both decency and prudence.  As a society we have criminalized far too much, and have concerned ourselves with the humane treatment of those we incarcerate far too little.