Is Solitary Confinement Torture?
Solitary Confinement is the act of placing a prisoner in a small cell, usually the size of your average bathroom, for up to 23 hours a day with one hour reserved for physical activity. The only contact the prisoner is allowed to have with the outside world is through letters. It sounds horrible, but is it torture? To answer this we have to define and set up criteria for something to be considered “torture”. I have created such a definition and criteria and have decided that for something to be considered torture it must (a) cause some sort of physical or mental pain or discomfort, and (b) must have some sort of lasting effect upon the victim. Solitary confinement is torture because it causes mental anguish and often leaves prisoners with mental illness and other mental problems that stay with them long after their prison term is over. First we have to see if solitary confinement does in fact cause some sort of physical or mental pain or discomfort.
According to a Dr. Stuart Grassian, there is a specific syndrome that is persistent among solitary confinement inmates with very real and very dramatic effects. Hyperresponsivity to external stimuli, meaning the inmate becomes increasingly sensitive to sounds, movements, etc. is one of the symptoms. "You get sensitive to noise -- the plumbing system. Someone in the tier above me pushes the button on the faucet. ... It's too loud, gets on your nerves. I can't stand it. I start to holler." (qtd. in Grassian 3). Other symptoms include perceptual distortions, illusions and hallucinations, panic attacks, difficulties with thinking, concentration and memory, intrusive obsessional thoughts, overt paranoia, and problems with impulse control. (Grassian 3-4)
If solitary confinement truly was torture, it would also need to have some sort of lasting effect on the victims. Since solitary confinement does not cause physical harm, there are no long term physical effects. However,...
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