On any day, there are over 25,000 people in the United States in solitary confinement. That is more than any other country in the world. Solitary confinement is touted as a way to keep prison populations safe, but many experts are beginning to argue that solitary confinement makes prison, and eventually the general population, less safe by fostering, and sometimes even creating, mental illness that can lead to psychosis or even suicide. In fact, around half of all prison suicidesoccur in solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is also almost three times as expensive as housing an inmate in general population.
So why use it? Proponents argue that is a necessary tool to control prison populations and prevent certain inmates from harming others both inside and outside of prison. But the ability to lockdown a person for 23 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year; possibly indefinitely, is a power that should have strong limitations. These limitations should help insure that solitary confinement is a short-term solution so that people like Peter Rollock don't spend the rest of their lives in solitary confinement without hope of ever being stepped down into general population.
Limitations like those won in the case we filed against the State of Montana on behalf of Raistlen Katka to prevent mentally ill juveniles from being housed in solitary confinement for extended periods of time.
There is much work to be done on the front, but advocates are speaking up. The house recently held a hearing on the use of solitary confinement, and experts are speaking out against it as a form of torture. Learn more.