The paper “Long-Term Isolation in Prison” discusses the type of torture that most adults are aware of, but most choose not to ponder it often. Many may not even consider it torture, but solitary confinement, especially long periods of it, should not be considered anything less…
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In fact, because those who impose the torture, prison officials, correction officers, and the lawyers who defend them in court, do not discuss it in any meaningful way. They do not release statistics about how many prisoners are kept isolated from the rest of the prison population, and they appeal any verdicts that say that solitary confinement is cruel and unusual punishment. Yet, how something that can cause the same amount of physical damage as being hit in the head hard enough to change one’s brain function, like as little as two weeks of solitary confinement does, can be called anything but torture is beyond reason to most people. This widespread and uniquely cruel form of torture goes by several different names. Among them are solitary confinement, segregation or “SAMs” (i.e. Special Administrative Measures) established “in 1996 for gang leaders and other crime bosses with demonstrated reach in cases of ‘substantial risk that an inmate's communication or contacts with persons could result in death or serious bodily injury to persons’" (Theoharis). Perhaps no one speaks of solitary confinement in terms of inhumane torture because they believe it is used just for the worst of the worst, the gang leaders and crime bosses, and since September 11, 2001, terrorists. Cool Hand Luke was thrown in “the hole” for defying the prison camp’s rules, and most people’s concept of solitary confinement matches what was portrayed in that movie and others like it. Most people believe solitary confinement is a place for inmates who violate prison rules. And, to be fair, it is. There are not a lot of freedoms to restrict or privileges to take away from a prisoner who has already had most of his/her rights removed through incarceration. Maybe though it is just easier not to think of such things. After all, if one is not a criminal, one never has to worry about spending 23 hours a day in a cinder block cell with no television, radio, or newspapers. Not even a deck of playing cards are allowed. Books are and usually, inmates in solitary confinement can write letters to one family member once a week, although the rules on that vary. Some inmates in segregated units—another more sterile name for solitary confinement—can have visitors; some cannot. They can leave their cell for one hour a day to exercise or shower, and all that activity is watched by guards via monitoring devices. These are not conditions most people see as humane even for criminals convicted of heinous crimes, but what should be done with prisoners who cannot get along with other prisoners, who incite violence or are caught with contraband in their cells? Solitary confinement seems like the only alternative. That is why it is surprising to some to learn that many prisoners kept in segregation are not violent, have not broken any rules, and are not being punished per se. Miki Ann DiMarco, a transsexual female incarcerated before the transformational surgeries were completed spent fourteen months in protective segregation in Wyoming Women’s Center. Because DiMarco still had some male genitalia, prison officials thought it best to keep her out of the general prison population for fear that she would be harassed.
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