Regulating the Use of Solitary Confinement in US Prisons
Keywords:Solitary Confinement, Isolated Detention, Human Rights, Psychiatric Illness, Criminal Justice Reform, Incarceration, Medicine
Statement of Significance
This article aims to summarize relevant literature on the topic of prolonged solitary confinement from the perspective of the medical sciences to outline the detrimental health impacts associated with this practice, evaluate the extent to which the current use of this practice in the United States (US) aligns with the recommendations outlined in human rights literature, and offer recommendations to further regulate the use of solitary confinement in prisons to better align with the rehabilitative goals of the US criminal justice system.
This review details the well-studied physical and psychological harms associated with prolonged solitary confinement to support the notion that restrictions should be placed on the use of this practice for the wellbeing of incarcerated individuals. Additionally, it reviews the recommendations for appropriate use of this practice outlined in human rights literature and examines how the contemporary utilization of solitary confinement within US prisons fails to meet these proposed standards. Finally, this article offers specific recommendations regarding the appropriate settings in which solitary confinement should be used, key regulations to limit the extent of its use, and additional measures to minimize harm to incarcerated individuals.
The limitations of this study include the decision to pursue a targeted literature review, as opposed to an exhaustive systematic review, which may have excluded specific arguments relevant to this paper’s discussion. Further, the scope of this article was focused on a discussion on the topic of prolonged solitary confinement and did not comment on the separate issue regarding the moral permissibility of the solitary confinement, as a whole. Finally, the cultural differences between the US and other high-income countries may limit the ability to compare models of rehabilitation in correctional institutions between these nations, suggesting that the proposed impact of the chosen recommendations should be interpreted with caution.
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