It is a sad commentary when jail and prison officials cite the “gap between cell bars” as mitigating evidence against the negative effects of solitary confinement. Yet, officials at an LA County Jail have said the spaces between the steel bars “ offer limited interaction with neighboring inmates, even if the men cannot see one other and must yell to be heard.
Of course, there is some merit to the contention that visibility beyond the confines of a 7×9 foot cell lessens the claustrophobic sensation most anyone would experience in such confinement. But the bigger question is why use solitary confinement at all? It is beyond reproach that isolation in prison settings can cause inmates to suffer serious psychological damage . The use of “restrictive” housing in California prisons, including the infamous Pelican Bay facility, sparked a lawsuit and an agreement that helped to fundamentally alter some aspects of this cruel and unconstitutional custom. More work is needed. Here is a summary of the agreement .
OUR FREE OPINION
The negatively perceived value of solitary confinement is substantially outweighed by the costs, morally and economically, that stem from this psychologically challenged practice. It seems crystal clear to us that jail and prison officials violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment when they cage humans in this matter, and the cruelty is exasperated in the absence of meaningful review.
For those who feel that the inmates are getting what they deserve– they shouldn’t commit the crime if they can’t do the crime– we add that solitary confinement units cost more “to build than the average prison and cost more per inmates per year than general population inmates. Nationally, it has been estimated that on average, a year in solitary costs taxpayers $75,000. The average for general population prisoners was about $25,000 annually.”
Accordingly, for moral and cost reasons, solitary confinement should rarely, if ever, be used to confine prisoners.