Too much solitary confinement in U.S. prisons

  • Article by: RUTH MARCUS , Washington Post
  • Updated: October 17, 2012 - 12:59 PM

Why subject youths to solitary confinement? We're torturing our children.

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th3171Oct. 17, 12 1:07 PM

Ain't gonna happen there Ruth. #1 Don't break the law, or if you must break the law, #2 get along with others in general population.

mouthwashOct. 17, 12 1:25 PM

MANY incarcerated individuals would rather live in solitary confinement than to share a cell with Bubba.

zippo12Oct. 17, 12 1:56 PM

I think your real argument is that prisoners need safe human contact on a regular basis. This could be provided without subjecting prisoners to being raped by being put into cells with people who would rape them if given the chance. Prison rape is a real issue and not a joke. I read the true story of a 17 year old boy who agreed to a 2 1/2 year plea bargain, but the plea was thrown out when he refused to have sex with the man who was doing his sentencing report (he made him out to be a monster as payback). He ended up spending eight years in prison and was raped hundreds of times, for he was a good looking young white boy with no gang connections to protect him. Such things should never happen.

marathongirlOct. 17, 12 2:22 PM

So, kids who are in prison, have done extremely violent things to end up in a regular prison...people know what happens when you get caught doing violent things. I'm sorry but I can't feel sorry for someone being in solitary confinement for doing something they shouldn't have in prison...they are in prison for a reason.

atoonceOct. 17, 12 5:01 PM

Just because some people are animals, doesn't mean we should act the same way, or subject them to dehumanizing treatment. This also applies to capital punishment. They are still incarcerated after all. Would you all be happy if they be tortured also? Rape is a form of torture and I object to those that chuckle or make jokes about how certain criminals will be treated when they get to prison. We need to re-humanize ourselves and try to rehumanize prisoners as much as possible.

AirForceGuyOct. 17, 12 5:37 PM

Interestingly, the United States is one of the FEW remaining countries that actually subject their inmates to the tortures of solitary confinement. I hate people and would rather get a death penalty than be forced to spend 23 hours a day by myself with no contact. That's abuse. I don't care if you think I'm a "liberal" for saying it either. It's wrong. Then, after their sentences are up, we let them out. Is it any wonder why Americans are so screwed up? You know what they do in Belgium? They feed their prisoners 5-star meals made by ACTUAL chefs...fresh bread, wine, organic...even delicious...ingredients. You know what they do here? Feed them Grade X horse meat (probably) and then subject them to some more psychological torture. I'd try to break out of an American prison, too. At least in Europe the prisoners WANT to stay in prison.

swmnguyOct. 17, 12 5:40 PM

There are a few higher-order considerations here. What kind of society do we want to be? Do we want to define ourselves in terms of the worst of us, or do we want to try to get the worst of us to act better?

Is the point of prison to punish people, or to try to salvage what good there is in these people? Do we see them as evil and irredeemable, or do we see the wrong they have done as a sign that there's something wrong with them, and we should try to fix it?

A couple generations ago, we were more concerned with keeping ourselves on the high road, and reforming prisoners. We had vocational and educational programs, we didn't overcrowd the prisons, we tried to feed and exercise people properly, and we generally looked toward their release date as a timed goal for releasing a productive human being.

I don't see that any more. I see politically ambitious law enforcement people looking to create bogeymen for political and financial advantage. I see for-profit prisons. I see a public looking for revenge in any available direction. I also see a huge sector draining ever-more money from the taxpaying public. We have more prisons and more people in them per capita than anyplace else. We overcrowd our prisons, and have all but eliminated education, mental and physical health goals, and anything that would help an already messed-up person function productively in society.

Even that's not enough. Now we drive people crazy with treatment we consider torture when it's done to our soldiers, and we consider violent rape to be an understood part of our "corrections" system, not to mention a funny joke. There's no benefit to the victims from all of this. There's no benefit to those of us who have to pay for it. And there's a negative effect on crime. People go back to prison now more than they used to, since they only get worse in the prisons we now have.

If all we're going to do is punish people, we might as well shoot them on the back step of the courthouse like they do in China.

zippo12Oct. 17, 12 7:27 PM

swmnguy, your post is one of the best I've seen on any topic in ages. Some of the posts are driven by fear and anger; yet, "what goes around comes around." I think we need to start by making prison safe for all prisoners. Next, we need to make prison a place where personal growth takes place. Honestly, aside from the fact that allowing rape is morally wrong, who wants prison to be a breeding ground for amoral behavior? Few of these persons are in for life, so if you want human beings to exit the prison walls, you have to treat all of these people as real human beings from day one. It will be hard work, for the prison system is extremely corrupt (e.g., in the example I gave in my earlier post, it was common knowledge amongst the guards and the prison officials that this boy and others were being repeatedly raped and nothing was done to help them. In fact, when this boy and another successfully joined forces to defend themselves for a week or so, the guards responded by putting them on separate units with the full intention that the rapes would then be able to continue. Why? The boys wouldn't have sex with one of the guards). Change starts with daring to see what is going on.

alansonOct. 18, 12 6:02 PM

The data is unreliable, but it appears the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country. Is this really necessary? Probably not, since the highest rate in the U.S. (Louisiana, apparently) is about 5 times that of Minnesota and Maine (the lowest 2 in the country). This state should perform a formal audit of its own practices to ensure that humane conditions do indeed prevail in our own prisons and jails, and then its politicians should, on a bipartisan basis, provide leadership in propounding a Minnesota model to the rest of the states. The high incarceration rates prevalent in this country inevitably feed a culture of overcrowding and brutality in our penal institutions. We need to work for creative methods to lower the rate of imprisonment, and Minnesota can lead the way.

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