Solitary Confinement

Solitary confinement has many euphemisms: administrative segregation, restrictive housing unit, security management unit, secure housing unit. No matter what you call it, the practice remains substantially the same: for months, years, or even decades, a single human being is confined in a bathroom-sized cage for 23 hours a day.

Their single hour of respite is taken alone in a tiny outdoor cage, insufficiently spacious for any recreational activity other than pacing. Even that meager privilege is always denied on weekends, and sometimes permanently. Those in solitary confinement have little or no opportunity to talk to or otherwise meaningfully interact with other human beings. And with the exception of incidental contact accompanying the placing or removal of shackles, they go years or decades without experiencing human touch. In short, they are utterly alone.

Irrespective of the precise set of restrictions, the outcome is unvarying: prisoners condemned to solitary confinement endure grave and permanent psychological and physiological harm. As Justice Kennedy has written, it is a practice that brings prisoners “to the edge of madness, perhaps to madness itself.” Today, 80,000-100,000 humans endure this regime in American prisons and jails. It is time to put an end to it.