In this presentation I will cover the controversial subject of solitary confinement that exists in “Supermax” prisons. Supermax is short for “super-maximum security”. The “SHU”, or “special housing unit” exists inside a supermax prison. It is a place designed to house violent prisoners who present a threat to the general inmate population, guards, or themselves. The theory is that solitary confinement and sensory deprivation will bring about behavior modifications. I will present the argument that this type of punishment is counterproductive to the rehabilitation of institutionalized inmates America.
I. The origin of modern day solitary. I. The theory behind segregation in prison populations. II. The pros and cons of solitary confinement. III. The long-term effects of non-contact with others.
In this presentation I aim to convince my audience that the penal system has adopted an outdated version of mental programming that causes more harm than good when confining inmates to solitary cells and depriving them of human contact that is necessary for normal human function.
I. Atul Gawande, Hellhole, THE NEW YORKER, Mar. 30, 2009, available at http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/03/30/090330fa_fact_gawande. II. KERAMET REITER, PAROLE, SNITCH, OR DIE: CALIFORNIA’S SUPERMAX PRISONS & PRISONERS, 1987‐
2007 47‐51 (2010); MAUREEN L. O’KEEFE, CO. DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, ANALYSIS OF COLORADO’S
ADMINISTRATIVE SEGREGATION 25 (2005).
III. Langley v. Coughlin, 715 F. Supp. 522, 540 (S.D.N.Y. 1988) (holding that evidence of prison officials’ failure to screen out from SHU “those individuals who, by virtue of their mental condition, are likely to be severely and adversely affected by placement there” states an Eighth
IV. “Solitary Confinement,” ( A National Geographic film, 2010 ) accessed