Why Solitary Confinement Is Torture
By Jack Hays
Black's law dictionary defines "torture" as, "To inflict intense pain to body or mind for purposes of punishment..."1The United Nations has classified solitary confinement by its very nature as torture.2 I endured solitary confinement as a child.3 I have endured it off-and-on my entire life as a means of control, as an instrument of retaliation for standing up for what is right, and for senseless "punishment". It has changed me as a person. I have suffered both physical and mental scars. It is a danger to humanity as a whole. It is inhumane, is torture, and must be abolished for the progress of humanity as a whole—something we have known very well over 100 years.4 Solitary confinement both causes and exacerbates mental illness.5
The size of the neural circuits in the brain are directly affected by a person's social network.6 In solitary confinement, there is no "social network" except, perhaps, those whom a man or woman can scream at through a steel door in the next cell to try to communicate with, or the guard who ignores your humanity.7 Therefore, actual evidence has existed for more than 2 decades that keeping human beings isolated in solitary confinement, administrative segregation, restrictive housing, etc. reduces the size of their neural connections in their brains. Moreover, we have known for decades that solitary confinement destructively impacts people physically and mentally.8 Indeed, social pain "is associated with
1 Black's Law Dictionary, pg. 1490 (Centennial Ed. 1991). However, we are not sent to prison for people to punish us. We are sent to prison as the punishment. Prison staff are not there to punish us, they are they to see that we are detained in the prisons until that prison sentence is up or we die...Tyler v. Black, 811 Federal Reporter, 2nd Series, 424, 435 (8th Cir. Court of Appeals, 1987) ("[P]ersons are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment.").
2 Dr. Terry Allen Kupers, Solitary: The Inside Story of Supermax Isolation and How We Can Abolish It (University of California Press, Sept. 2017).
3 For purposes of this essay, I will be referring to "solitary confinement" as all isolation be it called "administrative segregation", "segregation", etc. You can call a turd "administrative defecation" but it is still a turd.
4 See In Re Medley, 134 U.S. Reports 160, 168 (1890) (Stating people went "violently insane", "committed suicide", "were not generally reformed", and "did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community"—striking down a statute imposing solitary confinement).
5 Brown v. Plata, 563 U.S. 493 (2011) (The Secretary of the California Prison System stated, "[W]e make people worse"—due to solitary confinement and other draconian practices.).
6 R.I.M. Dunbar, Evolutionary Anthropology (1998).
7 Here in Iowa, they actually put you on a Dog Leash at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, Iowa. I have filed a lawsuit for this practice, as well as many other inhumane practices. The case number is CVCV059075, Hays v. State, et al., Polk County District Court, Iowa. The state is trying to get the case thrown out and the courts here in Iowa have done very little for a long time so it is a possibility.
8 Elizabeth Benninon, Banning the Bing: Why Extreme Solitary Confinement Is Cruel and Far Too Usual, 90 Ind. Law Journal 741, 753-763 (2015) (Scientific studies showing effects of isolation on brain, body, and behavior); and
Page 1 of 2 the brain structure called the anterior cingulate cortex—the same structure involved in the emotional component of physical pain"9. The physical structure of the human mind is literally destroyed by solitary confinement and causes terrible psychic pain, which results in physical pain, suicides, self-castration, and other injuries.10
People are literally dying everyday all across the U.S. and around the world due to solitary confinement.11 The U.S. incarcerates more people than all the other countries of western civilization together.12 Therefore, we are torturing and killing more people than any other country in the world. Indeed, the United Kingdom refused to extradite a citizen due to the fact that the majority of what is passed as "treatment" in this country is solitary confinement and medication.13 Myself, personally, as a prisoner with serious mental illness, I am lucky—as are many, many children, women and men suffering and languishing in U.S. prisons—to still be alive.
The Practice of solitary confinement is hopefully on its way out of practice around the world. However, here in Iowa, we have started new "short term restrictive housing" and "long term restrictive housing programs"14—though in 2016 President Barack Obama submitted a Presidential Memorandum condemning all "restrictive housing", published in the Federal Register (I guess Iowa didn't get the Memo). Until this practice is abolished, the United States will continue to be the, by far, country that tortures more people than any country in the world. Solitary confinement is torture.
Clarinda Correctional Facility, Iowa
Dr. Stuart Grassian, Psychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement, 22 Washington University Journal of Law & Policy 325 (2006); see also Smith, The Effects of Solitary Confinement On Prison Inmates: A Brief History and Review of the Literature, 34 Crime & Justice 441 (2006).
9 Professor Leonard Mlodinow, Subliminal: The Revolution of the New Unconscious and What it Teaches Us about ourselves, pg. 83 (Penguin 2012).
10 See Generally www.solitarywatch.com.
11 See www.solitarywatch.com.
12 Tara Herivel and Paul Wright, Prison Profiteers: Whom Makes Money From Incarceration, pg. ix (The New Press 2007).
13 Love v. Government of the United States, High Court of Justice, Queen's Bench Division, Case #C0/5994/2016 (Refused to extradite Lauri Love—stating isolation and suicide smock is not treatment).
14 Which is essentially 18 months to indefinite time in solitary confinement.
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