Wednesday, September 2, 2015

California Puts limitations on Solitary Confinement

Today I heard about the changes to the solitary confinement policy in California. After a lawsuit was settled, California says it is illegal to place prisoners in solitary confinement indefinitely. Some you ask where do the high risk, violent, totally evil prisoners go? The answer is to move prisoners to a new unit where they have more privileges, such as phone, and some leisure time.

This policy change comes after various court cases, hunger strikes, and studies reporting on how solitary confinement takes a toll on individuals more than it seems. The act of cutting off almost all interaction will affect their sanity. Along with the loss of sanity, some argue that solitary confinement does not really rehabilitate individuals. They also use the eighth amendment, no cruel and unusual punishment, to try to argue their point,m although I think I think that using the eight amendment is stretching it. There are negative affects to solitary confinement but the base of the act is to isolate someone, not torture them. However I do see pushing gang members automatically into solitary confinement, when they arrive, is unfair. Individuals should not just be judge on their past. Prison is meant to rehabilitate individuals, judging them on their past is against that.

The other side believes that prisoners are prisoners; they have no freedoms or guaranteed rights as they have lost that privilege due to breaking the law. Some guards also warn that solitary confinement is a method of suppressing the prisoners. Conclusively I think that solitary confinement should not be done away with, but like what this policy changes is prevent individuals to be in solitary confinement from being indefinite and more than 10 years. No matter the act there should always be some change in actions or violence.

You can read the original article on The New York Times here


Monica Mai said...

I definitely agree with you that prison is meant to rehabilitate individuals and give them a chance to turn over a new leaf. Solitary confinement in my opinion is definitely torturous. Though the intent is to isolate violent individuals, solitary confinement affects individuals on a bigger scale. According to this article I found (I'll list it at the end), "human beings are social creatures" and "isolation and loss of control breeds anger, anxiety, and hopelessness." To subject prisoners to this kind of psychological torture is definitely a cruel and unusual punishment. To digress a little bit, I'm wondering how the government defines "cruel and unusual." I feel that is a very subjective and vague phrase and doesn't protect prisoners from "cruel and unusual" punishment. But anyways, no human being should be subject to such psychological torture. We need interaction in order to survive because as the article mentioned, we are built to be social. Solitary confinement confuses man's inherent nature and is torturous because it takes a huge toll on them mentally and also increases their likelihood of committing suicide. Prisoners are still human beings and there must be some other way to suppress prisoners without subjecting them to such a punishment.

Marly Miller said...

I agree with Monica that other methods should be used to suppress prisoners, being alone for a long period of time without any human contact or interaction is a horrible thought, encompassing a lot of psychological torture. However, prisoners are put in jail for a reason and there must be some kind of punishment present to keep all the prisoners under control. A riot, fight, or any unlawful action among the inmates needs to result in consequences if the jail is to keep order and function properly. This implies that this punishment must be something bad enough to scare criminals and prevent them from acting out. All this may sound harsh, as prisoners are human beings, which is why another solution would be beneficial, keeping order while still being merciful (a tricky dilemma as individuals may feel as though they have less to lose if there are no intimidating consequences- however there are still punishments less extreme that can create unnerving reactions and result in a functioning prison). This reminds me of the reading we did in class, "People of Paradox," which highlights the framers' distrust in humanity/ the common goodness of man along with their fear of too much control and a tyranny. Punishment of any human is commonly believed as immoral but if there are no consequences, there is less certainty that society can function. It then becomes difficult to trust mankind to 'behave' and keep order. Our democratic government was formed on the basis that mankind is unworthy, according to our "People of Paradox" reading, which means that, although it is democratic, some control over states and people must be implemented, but not too much control (prevent tyrannous actions). A completely democratic government would not work well if mankind is so distrustful. All this begs the question, is it right to exert control over human beings? And, if so, what kind of situation calls for that action? (especially physical/violent actions?) And who has the right to decide this? (The framers would say that mankind needs some control in any situation (but not too much)) It all comes down to morals and ethics when deciding how to control individuals. (also- writing this made me think of AP English last year and 'Beloved'- who are the definers? and who has the right to define another human being?)

Tara Young said...

I do not believe that solitary confinement should be indefinite. However, I do not think that solitary confinement is "cruel and unusual punishment." There needs to be a way to stop and restrict the prisoners so that they cannot cause chaos with the other prisoners or hurt other prisoners. Since the prisoners broke laws and ended up in prison, they have lost some of their rights, so citing the 8th amendment does not carry much weight. Solitary confinement might not rehabilitate people and there should be methods of rehabilitating prisoners. The solitary confinement may strike enough fear or dread of being alone as Monica said, to cause them to behave when they are not in solitary confinement and prevent them from being sent back. I believe that solitary confinement should continue to be used in prisons.