Should prisoners be subjected to solitary confinement? Many lobbyists condemn solitary confinement and advocate for more humane practices while others support solitary confinement by arguing prisoners should be denied the comforts of society.
Imagine sitting alone for 10 hours with no interaction with others. Now imagine being confined to a room without television, internet or phones for 24 hours. Now imagine living in these conditions for two weeks.
Solitary confinement can consist of 22-23 hours of isolation per day for a prisoner. Inmates are often placed in small cells sometimes in dimensions of nine by six feet. These cells have no windows only a toilet, bed and sink. Occasionally, inmates who are believed to inflict self- harm or display disruptive behavior in prison are placed in solitary confinement. There is an hour for exercise but there have been multiple cases where this right has been neglected. Currently, there is no limitation on how long an inmate can be locked in solitary confinement.
The logic behind solitary confinement is to punish misbehavior and allow the prisoner to reflect on their actions. Yet this can quickly become a reason for concern when the patient is mentally unstable and requires medical assistance. Isolating a person with mental health concerns with disregard for their mental health can be dangerous for the inmate. The mental pressure of isolation for long periods of time can result in a non-mental health patient becoming mentally unstable; thus the impact on a mental health patient can be far more profound and hazardous.
Proponents suggest that prisoners are not entitled to the comforts of law-abiding citizens. Furthermore, solitary confinement allows the prisoner to reflect on their behavior before re-entering the general prison population. It is also argued that solitary confinement helps maintain order in prisons and power over inmates. However, opponents strongly disagree with this stance.
Numerous lobbyists are fighting to remove solitary confinement from the prison system. Conversely, some groups are maintaining a narrower focus of limiting solitary confinement to no more than 15 days; anything more is considered cruel punishment and torture. Critics argue that prisons can restrict an inmates’ right to mobility and liberty but the law should continue to protect their health care in accordance to basic human rights in Canada.
Criminal law professors argue that there is currently a mental health crisis in the Canadian prison system which is largely neglected. They also argue that penitentiaries are meant to serve as a rehabilitative service not a means to punish individuals for their mental illnesses.
Long periods of isolation can lead inmates to feel resentful and angry upon release. Segregated inmates have frequently resorted to extreme measures for attention from guards including self-harm and attempting suicide. Prisoners are exposed to little social interaction for blocks of time and expected to function as ordinary prisoners or citizens upon their release despite being subjected to extraordinary conditions. The Liberal government is currently examining solitary confinement and the consequences of the practice.
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Points of Discussion:
1. How do you feel about solitary confinement?
2. Is solitary confinement a common practice where you live? If so, how effective is it?