Imagine that you are in prison. A court ruling places you in solitary confinement from anywhere between 26 years to a lifetime. You head to your cell and hear the metal gate lock behind you. No windows. No internet. No family. You are pure nothingness. Just from looking at the cracked concrete wall, you can hear the years of screams, smell the insanity and see the countless lives that have been forgotten in a cell no larger than a bathroom. The use of isolation in our society is by no means new; you see movie characters like Chuck Noland in "Cast Away" experience it for its entertainment value.
However, solitary confinement is no joke. New studies are beginning to reveal the detrimental effects of the practice. Despite solitary confinement's safety benefits, its use in America's prisons must be banned due to its ineffective and inhumane qualities.
Advocates of solitary confinement say that inmates are a threat to both guards and the general public. Although a case can be made in favor of solitary confinement for the safety in prisons and society, isolation psychiatrically deteriorates prisoners and forces them to become an even greater threat to society, according to The Washington Post. Also, states collectively had 3,100 inmates held continuously in segregation for more than a year, including 200 alone for more than ten years according to Bill Lueders. Inmates are consistently placed in isolation, limiting their opportunities to succeed. We as a society are largely responsible for the disturbing behavior that we ultimately fear.
In a world that constantly strives for efficiency, the need for solitary confinement to discontinue is highlighted. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics' 2005 prison census cited by the National Review, the number of people in isolation grew upwards of 40 percent between 1995 and 2000. Inmates are crowding prisons due to the excessive use of solitary confinement. Economically, the use of isolation to punish inmates has strained the average taxpayer. According to The Economist, the system still costs American taxpayers about $34,000 per inmate per year. The total bill amounts to approximately $80 billion annually. The use of solitary confinement is like the spending for the American military system in that it should be compared to that of other countries to see if it is really effective.
The consistent use of solitary confinement is deteriorating to the inmates. Past President Barack Obama spoke out on solitary confinement as recently as January 2016. Referring to the 100,000 people in American solitary confinement institutions, The New York Times quoted our president saying that "[t]he United States is a nation of second chances... Imagine having served your time and then being unable to hand change over to a customer or look your wife in the eye or hug your children." Additionally, Obama told the story of a 16-year-old, Kalief Browder, who was sent to solitary confinement after just stealing a backpack. After numerous attempts to kill himself during his time in prison, he committed suicide as soon as he was released. Solitary confinement is inhumane in that its lasting effects cause its inhabitants to become insane.
Solitary confinement must end in American prison systems due to its increasing ineffectiveness and unmistakable cruelty. What is supposed to be a practical institution instead leads to suicide and a loss of resources. All that aside, how might solitary confinement interest many of you today? Since a lot of us are fortunate enough to grow up in relative affluence, prisons most likely have played a small role in our lives.
However, it is important to educate yourselves and others around you about the need to stop solitary confinement and eventually push for change in your community. Remind yourselves that it is not always murderers or rapists sitting in prison. Sometimes they are teenagers, just like us, who can make one mistake and find themselves alone. Forever.