Person sitting with head in their hands

A joint report released in May by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) and Disability Rights Ohio informed us that “Solitary confinement is torture” and that “ninety-five percent of people who go to prison are one day released back to their communities.”

The American Friends Service Committee reports that today there are more than 40 states that have super-maximum security facilities “primarily designed to hold people in long-term isolation.”

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that ten years ago there were “more than 80,000 men, women and children in solitary confinement in prisons across the United States” and that “as with the overall prison population, people of color are disproportionately represented in isolation units.”

Solitary confinement can be behind a solid steel door for 22 to 24 hours a day, severely limited contact with other human beings, rare non-contact family visits, grossly inadequate medical and mental health treatment, no-touch torture such as sensory deprivation, permanent bright lighting, extreme temperatures, and forced insomnia. Studies have shown that long-term solitary confinement can affect a person in numerous ways such as visual and auditory hallucinations, hypersensitivity to sound and touch, uncontrollable feelings of rage and fear, increased risk of suicide and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to name a few.

If you are a juvenile and put in solitary confinement during the critical time when your brain is still developing, you are now mentally challenged. If you are mentally ill and put in solitary confinement during the critical time when you are having a mental health crisis you are now more mentally challenged. If you are a sane person and put in solitary confinement during the critical time when you are feeling helpless you are now mentally challenged. Anyone who is put in solitary confinement, for long periods of time, will become mentally challenged to overcome the mental “torture” they have been subjected to while being “rehabilitated.”

There are many names for solitary confinement in Ohio. Names like restrictive housing, local control, protective custody and disciplinary control are used to disguise a form of torture so extreme that it leaves its victims more destructive than when they were arrested. If solitary confinement is used as a “first resort for minor rule violations like making too much noise” and “attempting suicide” what form of “control” is used for major violations? 

Ohio has plans to “reform” their solitary confinement treatment by 1) Increased programming and out-of-cell time in solitary confinement. 2) Adding step-down units before release from solitary confinement. 3) Improving data collection. 4) Enhancing staff training. 5) Strengthening legislative oversight and support.

The increased programming will add 10 to 20 hours of time out of solitary confinement per week. The step-down unit will be a place to “recover” from being in solitary confinement before returning to the general population. Improved data collection will do what it always does, collect data and of course, spend more taxpayer money to have an “independent monitor” monitor the collective data. Enhancing staff training will consist of training staff on “mental health treatment to wean them off of using solitary confinement because “It is unfair to take away the only paradigm staff have been taught and not provide the tools to help them succeed under a newmodel that drastically reduces the use of solitary confinement.”

Strengthening legislative oversight and support is to “empower the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee to evaluate the implementation of solitary reform efforts and recommend legislative changes to codify these reforms.”

Yes, that’s political jargon alright. I guess they will be utilizing the collective data to evaluate the implementation of training staff to actually deal with the prisoner instead of locking them further away in solitary confinement so that they will be better socially when they join the other prisoners and finally society and the world.

There has been an increase in the use of solitary confinement since the 1970s and although there has been strong evidence that this type of punishment only makes the mentally ill prisoner more mentally ill and the sane prisoner mentally ill, there has been no real decrease in the use of this form of prison torture. The prison system continues to release prisoners who have been in solitary confinement for months, even years, directly into an unsuspecting society. Directly into a society that the prisoner isn’t equipped to mentally deal with due to the forced separation from human contact other than the prison guards who moved them from one isolated cell to another day after day, after day.

It’s a good thing to “reform” the way prisoners are disciplined in the area of isolation. In the meantime, what about the ex-prisoners who are now our neighbors, family members, friends and children who have the mental scars of solitary confinement? Who will reform those who have been tortured?


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