The Hole—A look into the prisons within the prisons
In the United States today at least 80,000 prisoners are being held in some sort of isolation unit, commonly called solitary confinement. Prisoners in solitary are isolated in a 6X8 foot concrete room for 23 hours a day. This is how the United States government chooses to regulate the prisons, by locking prisoners in this cell for weeks, months or even years on end. Most prisoners are allowed 1 hour a day for “recreation” where they are allowed to go outside, alone, in a fenced area about the size of their cell. It is a dirty, cold, concrete room with only a metal slot in the door that they receive meals through. The room contains a bed, shower, and toilet, as well as a very small amount of personal items. They receive no educational classes, rehabilitative programs or other transitional services to help them prepare for their return to society, even when they are going to be released soon. They have absolutely no structure to their day. Since I was a child I have always been interested in the Criminal Justice System. I have long hoped to become a prosecutor and have always been curious about prisons and criminals. My original curiosity with solitary confinement specifically came from a Law and Order episode I saw. The main detective asked to be put in solitary confinement for a weekend to prove that the criminal’s defense was fake (the criminal was claiming he pushed the detective off the roof because of the psychological suffering he endured in solitary confinement). Throughout the episode I watched, as the detective slowly started hallucinating and got very anxious and angry. I assumed that the show was exaggerating for entertainment value however I wanted to find out whether that was true. Throughout my research process I have found that the symptoms the detective displayed are the same symptoms that thousands of real prisoners have. Through out my quest to learn more about the practice of Solitary confinement, my opinion has changed dramatically. At the beginning of this project I thought of this topic the same way I think about almost everything else, very black and white. I had little sympathy for prisoners, even those held in solitary confinement. I didn’t think of it as torture and didn’t understand what the problem was. Throughout my research my opinion has started becoming grayer, creating an internal tension for me between two conflicting views. I have a strong held belief that prisons provide justice and safety. I hope to become a prosecutor to execute law and order. However, I have become conflicted throughout this assignment because I have found that this way of punishment has been clearly shown to be immoral and inhuman. For my “site visit” I visited the Valhalla county jail. I was struck by the number of wives, parents, teenagers and young children who were there to visit loved ones. I listened in on defense attorney KL’s conversations with two of his clients and was shocked to find that I really did feel that one of them was being charged too harshly.
I am of course not defending what the prisoners did, and many of them deserve to be locked up, but the thought these people are treated so inhumanly, I feel disgraces our country and what it stands for. America, which supposedly stands for freedom, justice and the pursuit of happiness, locks up thousands and thousands of men, women, and teenagers sometimes as young as 14, in a cage. How could America, the land of freedom and opportunity, take part in such an appalling practice? Most of us wouldn’t treat our dogs the way the prisons treat the criminals, especially those in solitary confinement.
Solitary Confinement was first used in the Auburn state prison during a two-year experiment in 1821, during which scientists observed people in extreme isolation. They housed a group of prisoners in individual cells “without any labor or other adequate provisions for physical exercise.” Alexis de...
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