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The Science of Solitary Confinement

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 months ago | from the breaking-your-mind-reforms-you dept.

United States 326

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Joseph Stromberg writes in Smithsonian Magazine that while the practice of solitary confinement is being discontinued in most countries, it's become increasingly routine within the American prison system. It is estimated that between 80,000 and 81,000 prisoners are in some form of solitary confinement nationwide. Once employed largely as a short-term punishment, it's now regularly used as way of disciplining prisoners indefinitely, isolating them during ongoing investigations, coercing them into cooperating with interrogations and even separating them from perceived threats within the prison population at their request.

Most prisoners in solitary confinement spend at least 23 hours per day restricted to cells of 80 square feet, not much larger than a king-size bed, devoid of stimuli (some are allowed in a yard or indoor area for an hour or less daily), and are denied physical contact on visits from friends and family ... A majority of those surveyed experienced symptoms such as dizziness, heart palpitations, chronic depression, while 41 percent reported hallucinations, and 27 percent had suicidal thoughts...

But the real problem is that solitary confinement is ineffective as a rehabilitation technique and indelibly harmful to the mental health of those detained achieving the opposite of the supposed goal of rehabilitating them for re-entry into society. Rick Raemisch, the new director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, voluntarily spent twenty hours in solitary confinement in one of his prisons and wrote an op-ed about his experience in The New York Times. 'If we can't eliminate solitary confinement, at least we can strive to greatly reduce its use,' wrote Raemisch."

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326 comments

isn't it used on violent prisoners? (-1, Troll)

alen (225700) | about 2 months ago | (#46362249)

those who have attacked others or have shown to have colluded in harming people outside the prison system?

a lot of these people are bad people and deserve what they get and will never be normal

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (5, Insightful)

doctor woot (2779597) | about 2 months ago | (#46362327)

Yeah, I like making sweeping generalizations about tens of thousands of people that I've never met to justify horrific and inhumane treatment too.

Oh wait no I don't because I'm not a piece of shit.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (0)

xevioso (598654) | about 2 months ago | (#46362393)

The facts are, despite your hyperbole, that there are quite a few prisoners who literally have nothing to lose because they are in for life, and will use any opportunity to attack and/or kill guards or other prisoners. That is a fact. It's cruel to those other prisoners and guards to allow those individuals to remain in the general population. In fact, it's inhumane and horrific for THEM when they have to worry about Joe Psycopath and the shiv he made from a piece of rolled up newspaper. Where is your concern for them?

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (5, Informative)

maliqua (1316471) | about 2 months ago | (#46362447)

they can be isolated safely without the extremes of solitary confinement being locked in a tiny box and not being allowed any type of communication is not for the safety of other prisoners its vindictive

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (3, Insightful)

mythosaz (572040) | about 2 months ago | (#46362477)

they can be isolated safely without the extremes of solitary confinement

We all eagerly await your detailed plan for their isolation.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (5, Insightful)

maliqua (1316471) | about 2 months ago | (#46362573)

physical separation doesn't require a total lack of human contact or external stimuli.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (-1, Troll)

mythosaz (572040) | about 2 months ago | (#46362757)

Should we massage them like Kobe cows?

They interact with a human (briefly) several times a day.

How many strikes does it take for the average man to get from productive member of society to solitary confinement. Here's an oddly wildly unpopular idea -- how about stopping being a waste of skin and fluids somewhere before your 7th or 8th strike?

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (5, Insightful)

epyT-R (613989) | about 2 months ago | (#46362849)

Yeah, but the moment society closes the doors out of vindictiveness, it's pulled out all the control rods. Unfortunately, the road from being considered law abiding citizen to 'unemployable criminal' grows shorter every day. Once that point is reached, there's no longer any reason to care about anyone else's rules or artificial limitations. There's nothing more to lose.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (1)

Nukenbar (215420) | about 2 months ago | (#46362787)

But human contact and external stimuli in a physical separation situation would required a greater cost. Spending more on prisons is not high on anyone's radar but the ACLU.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (5, Insightful)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | about 2 months ago | (#46362833)

If we stopped incarcerating hundreds of thousands of nonviolent offenders guilty of victimless crimes like drug possession, we could afford to humanely house the actual criminals.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (3, Interesting)

xevioso (598654) | about 2 months ago | (#46362891)

By definition it does. You can either put them in a huge room by themselves or a small room by themselves, but some people will use any human contact AT ALL to try to become violent.

Can you come up with a plan not involving solitary confinement where a prisoner is physically unable to throw feces at you as you deliver their food?

There are some prisoners who are put in solitary because they literally use every opportunity they can to throw their own feces at people. Some say that is because they are in solitary and were driven to do this, but for others they were put in solitary BECAUSE they do this. The sad practicalities of prison make it very difficult to isolate these types of individuals without putting them in solitary.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362897)

Couldn't they just give him an Xbox? Some of us voluntarily spend 20-23 hours a day in a dark room with no human contact in an area no larger then a king sized bed.....

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (1, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 2 months ago | (#46362491)

they can be isolated safely without the extremes of solitary confinement being locked in a tiny box and not being allowed any type of communication is not for the safety of other prisoners its vindictive

You know what? Sometimes you reap what you sow.

And then again, per the article, there are some inmates that request it. Frankly, I'd likely ask for it too, rather than be in general population with all those animals.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 2 months ago | (#46362627)

Hey, guess what? We're animals out here too. If we did a better job of treating prisoners for the conditions that led to them getting incarcerated, jails wouldn't be as bad to be in.

Everyone kind of intuitively knows the difference between "maximum security" and "minimum security" prisons isn't really about how likely you are to escape, but how harshly you're being punished, and how much violence you should expect to receive. We don't even pretend those descriptions are actually accurate.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (-1, Flamebait)

xevioso (598654) | about 2 months ago | (#46362927)

Bullshit. Jails are SUPPOSED to be bad to be in, so that the prisoner who is smart enough to behave and eventually be released *might* say to himself, "Gosh, I had better not break the law or I will end up there again." Reform of the individual is an important part of why we put people in prison. But prison advocates rarely admit that an equal reason we put people there is to punish them.

But more important than both of these reasons is to keep that prisoner from the general populace so they won't commit the acts again that got them there. That is the #1 reason to put someone in prison.

But a prison has it's own social order of course, and you can commit crimes even while in prison.

So we have a place for people who commit crimes against guards and other prisoners while in prison.

That is called Solitary Confinement. Where at last you are reduced to such a state that LITERALLY the only person you can hurt in any way, shape, or form is YOURSELF.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (2)

c-A-d (77980) | about 2 months ago | (#46362585)

One solution would be to rearrange the cells in new prisons to allow them to communicate with a small group of other prisoners even while isolated. Perhaps if they were placed in such a way as to allow them to physically interact at even a distant level so they can play cards or board games.

The current system is complete isolation but it may not be necessary. Just high isolation may be enough to keep the danger level down but the mental health of the prisoners up.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (3, Insightful)

Jeff Flanagan (2981883) | about 2 months ago | (#46362747)

We unfortunately allow psychopaths and sociopaths to control our prisons. We should be disqualifying anyone who wishes to harm their charges.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (1)

xevioso (598654) | about 2 months ago | (#46362855)

Quite often they cannot. Many of these prisoners use any interaction in any way with guards or other prisoners to become violent.

Seriously, there's quite a few TV shows about life in prison. It's depressing but instructive to watch. Many of these shows are more documentaries than entertainment.

And one of the things you can take away from these shows is, never underestimate how evil and cruel psychopaths can be, ESPECIALLY those on death row.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (5, Insightful)

doctor woot (2779597) | about 2 months ago | (#46362473)

Hyperbole? What hyperbole? You show me how solitary confinement reduces harm to both bystanders and inmates better than other, less barbaric methods of rehabilitation and I'll consider not viewing such methods and the people who advocate them with disgust.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 months ago | (#46362861)

Solitary confinement reduces the harm done to others to pretty much zero, because the prisoner is physically isolated and thus incapable of causing trouble. What other method are speaking of that can guarantee that?

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (1)

profplump (309017) | about 2 months ago | (#46362943)

So maybe we shouldn't create situations where members of society have nothing to lose? It's bad enough that such situations might arise in the world at large -- we certainly don't have to create them as a matter of law.

The world works on averages. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362403)

I think your response is way more dangerous than the original comment. The trouble with stupid people is they don't know they are stupid.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (0)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 2 months ago | (#46362647)

Yeah, I like making sweeping generalizations about tens of thousands of people that I've never met to justify horrific and inhumane treatment too.

Unless the prisoners were being imprisoned in North Korea or China or Sudan or any of those fascist countries, most of the prisoners who were incarcerated in (more civilized) countries such as the United States of America were there because they have committed crimes.
 
  Not that all of them deserve to be treated inhumanely but we gotta understand that most of them do pose a real harm to the society at large.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (2)

Sique (173459) | about 2 months ago | (#46362851)

So we should better increase the real harm they will do on the society at large by treating them in a way that makes it nearly impossible for them to ever fit into society again?

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362909)

Unless the prisoners were being imprisoned in North Korea or China or Sudan or any of those fascist countries, most of the prisoners who were incarcerated in (more civilized) countries such as the United States of America were there because they have committed crimes..

You make a laughably ridiculous assumption: that the courts and criminal justice process actually work fairly. The overwhelming majority of prisoners in the US took a plea bargain that takes them straight to a guilty verdict and prison whether they did the crime or not because it takes real money and good lawyers to defend a criminal charge - let alone win and get off. This is one reason the prisons are full of blacks and people from underprivileged backgrounds: they cannot afford a real defense even if they are innocent. Police and prosecutors rely on this to avoid supporting their case (real or not) in a trial. It also takes enormous personal resources and courage to withstand the strain of a lengthy criminal trial. The stress is unbelievable, some people just want to plead guilty and get it over with. The system fails.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362697)

Well, at least they get to experience dizziness and depression, unlike their victims which experience... oh yeah, nothing, because they're dead. Fuck off with this false empathy garbage to look good for the P.C. police. Some human beings are just defective and we have no surgery, no medication to help. Fry 'em.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362353)

urine idjit...
stop reading that old hag ayn rand and grow up...

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (2)

kthreadd (1558445) | about 2 months ago | (#46362389)

those who have attacked others or have shown to have colluded in harming people outside the prison system?

a lot of these people are bad people and deserve what they get and will never be normal

And somehow making them less normal is a good thing?

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (5, Interesting)

Soulskill (1459) | about 2 months ago | (#46362407)

Some of them are violent prisoners, certainly, but a large portion are not. It's frequently used as punishment for nonviolent criminals, and also for 'protection' of inmates who are likely to be harmed by other inmates.

It's also, as the article points out, essentially torture. Do we want that even for violent offenders? I don't. I also don't want to take the risk of torturing somebody who was wrongfully convicted. As far as 'never being normal' -- well, even populations of violent offenders can have low recidivism rates.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (5, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 months ago | (#46362873)

It's also, as the article points out, essentially torture. Do we want that even for violent offenders? I don't.

"The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all." - H. L. Mencken

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for men of good conscience to do nothing." - Thomas Jefferson

I could go on, but I shouldn't have to.

Political prisoners too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362917)

Don't forget also prisoners with politically related crimes.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362435)

Instead of just locking them up and throwing away the key. Why not force them to make the system better?

Sure prision is not supposed to be a bed of roses it is punishment. However, for some this is their home. This is where they live. They live with I mean *real scum* Randolph.

What about the short timers? When they get out their life in some cases will be drastically worse than before. For some it will be about the same as before. Why should they not come out better than when they went in?

Forced education of the basic R's would be a good start. Nearly 60-70% of our incarcerated population can not read. What hopes of a job do you have if you can not even do that? Gangs and rapes should not be the first thing people think of when being sent to prison. Some of the people going in have serious drug usage problems, mental health issues, etc. We need multitudes of programs to help these people. Even though our first reaction is lock them up and throw away the key and if the hole isnt deep enough have them keep digging.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (4, Informative)

mythosaz (572040) | about 2 months ago | (#46362661)

Why should they not come out better than when they went in?

Forced education of the basic R's would be a good start. Nearly 60-70% of our incarcerated population can not read

Bullshit.

http://nces.ed.gov/pubs94/9410... [ed.gov]

About 7 in 10 prisoners perform in Levels 1 and 2 on the prose, document,
and quantitative scales. These prisoners are apt to experience difficulty in
performing tasks that require them to integrate or synthesize information
from complex or lengthy texts or to perform quantitative tasks that involve
two or more sequential operations and that require the individual to set up
the problem.

They say that about 70% have some problems with complex or lengthy texts -- mostly as a result of them entering prison as a person who likely lacked an education to begin with. Nowhere will you find anything credible that says 70% are illiterate.

begintoread.com is propaganda.

You can see here:
http://justice.uaa.alaska.edu/... [alaska.edu] ...that while prison rates are bad, they're not significantly worse than anything else. ...and still only measures people deficient -- not outright illiterate. At mostly, only 25% of specific prison groups by ethnicity have difficulty reading documents. ...and in some cases, their literacy level is HIGHER than outside prison.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362537)

How does keeping them in solitary keep people outside of the prison safe?
What purpose does confinement for 23 hours per day serve?
Is it just torture? Locking them away isn't good enough so we need to add something extra?
Why aren't they allowed physical contact with family? Are they afraid that the family will be harmed, or is it just more cruel punishment for the family as well as the prisoner?
Whenever I see documentaries about US prisons I just wonder why all that shit goes on there.
Most people who talk about prison say "Oh you gonna be raeped" and "don't drop the soap" like they're proud of the shitholes they call correctional institutions.
There are entire series about how you aren't safe in prison unless you join a gang, then they wonder why gang violence is such a problem in prison.
Maybe if prison wasn't such a hellhole people wouldn't come out worse than they went in. Then you get people with all their theories on punishment needing pain and whatever, and that the death penalty should be painful.

I'm sure everyone is laughing until they get falsely accused of rape (50% in the US) and then get some sweet butt-love.

Re:isn't it used on violent prisoners? (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#46362603)

those who have attacked others or have shown to have colluded in harming people outside the prison system?

a lot of these people are bad people and deserve what they get and will never be normal

That statement evaluates to 'true' (one way of getting assigned to a supermax, or tossed in the hole, is shivving a few guards or doing something suggestive of a little of the old ultraviolence); but it's one of those 'true' statements that verges on a falsehood by omission: You aren't going to get a ticket to Florence ADX or anything without showing some character; but in 'mixed' prisons that have a general population and some isolation cells people can, and do, end up doing long solitary stints more or less at the power and merely pleasure of correctional staff. If the wrong person is in the wrong mood, there really isn't a 'floor' below which your infraction can't earn you a trip to solitary, nor, once inside, is there any real bother with 'process' similar.

Like getting sent to the principal's office, only with harrowingly high odds of psychiatric morbidity(including behaviors punishable by.....you guessed it More Solitary!, like self mutilation, a laundry list of alarming neuropsychological effects, extremely high suicide rates(despite conditions designed to make this quite difficult). Happy times.

I'm not generally accused of being a bleeding heart; but I'd be perfectly willing to argue that anyone willing to inflict prolonged solitary confinement, rather than actually-competent execution(unfortunately, this excludes most of the methods we use on humans, for some insane reason) is guilty of naivete at best, and overt sadism at worst.

It's... generally a bad sign... when a procedure is considered nasty enough that you aren't allowed to do it to lab rodents without specific justification and an IRB signoff on your protocol and that aspect specifically...

This just goes to show (4, Insightful)

jmd (14060) | about 2 months ago | (#46362259)

How sad the USA has become.

Re:This just goes to show (1)

alen (225700) | about 2 months ago | (#46362343)

too bad the example in the linked article had multiple robbery convictions prior to being put in solitary and was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder while in prison

Re:This just goes to show (4, Insightful)

maliqua (1316471) | about 2 months ago | (#46362401)

too bad that makes no difference what the crime is, torture is torture and not justifiable particularly under the guise of rehabilitation implying that its good for them

Re:This just goes to show (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362671)

If it was torture he wouldn't subject himself to it willingly.

Re:This just goes to show (1)

maliqua (1316471) | about 2 months ago | (#46362829)

why not he had control of the situation and he knew it was a finite time.

people go to the dentist...

Re:This just goes to show (0)

mythosaz (572040) | about 2 months ago | (#46362677)

conspiracy to commit murder while in prison

This animal can't even live among other animals.

Boo hoo he's locked up in solitary.

Re:This just goes to show (1)

bunratty (545641) | about 2 months ago | (#46362415)

Well in that case I'm sure solitary confinement will show him the error of his ways.

Re:This just goes to show (3, Insightful)

Fwipp (1473271) | about 2 months ago | (#46362553)

Too bad his conviction was overturned. He spent 28 years in solitary for a crime he shouldn't have been convicted of.

Re:This just goes to show (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#46362643)

How sad the USA has become.

If this actually struck us(at a population level) as 'sad' rather than 'fuck yeah! tough on crime!', I suspect we'd be in better shape.

Re:This just goes to show (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362663)

At present I'm tying up loose ends to leave. This has been a long time coming. By the summer of 2014 I'll be gone. P.S. I'm also dropping out of the western culture.

May we assume you will no longer be farming karma from your fellow Slashdot libtards after you've gone?

Either way, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Re:This just goes to show (1)

UnderCoverPenguin (1001627) | about 2 months ago | (#46362853)

... and are denied physical contact on visits from friends and family ...

It not just those in solitary who are denied physical contact with visitors - at least in some prisons - even minimum security prisons. A friend of mine was imprisoned (for disorderly conduct) for a month in a minimum security prison. The visitation rooms had a plexiglass partition separating the inmate from the visitors. The prison had no provisions for allowing visitors to have physical contact with inmates - not even spouses or children. The inmates were allowed contact with other inmates. Nevertheless, it was hard on my friend to not be able to hug his children and wife for that time.

Re: This just goes to show (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362859)

No, there are much stupider things than this going on across the country that show the sad state.

Tor is building an anonymous instant messenger (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362267)

Tor is building an anonymous instant messenger

"Forget the $16 billion romance between Facebook and WhatsApp. There's a new messaging tool worth watching[1].

Tor[2], the team behind the world's leading online anonymity service, is developing a new anonymous instant messenger client, according to documents[3] produced at the Tor 2014 Winter Developers Meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland."

http://slashdot.org/submission... [slashdot.org]

[1] http://www.dailydot.com/techno... [dailydot.com]
[2] https://www.torproject.org/ [torproject.org]
[3] https://trac.torproject.org/pr... [torproject.org]

Re:Tor is building an anonymous instant messenger (1)

desdinova 216 (2000908) | about 2 months ago | (#46362519)

how would an anonymous IM work, wouldn't the person sending it need to know who's recieving the message and vice versa?

Ohmmm (1)

NMBob (772954) | about 2 months ago | (#46362291)

Teach them meditation.

Re:Ohmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362517)

i heard its done in some places/situations, they should definitely do it more broadly. cure from inside...

"Corrections" (5, Insightful)

Dutchmaan (442553) | about 2 months ago | (#46362299)

This is what happens when you have a society that is more interested in punishing people than reforming. It's as if to say "We don't believe you'll ever change, or are capable of changing so we're going to crush you instead." All you have to do is read a forum on any news story relating to a crime to get a realistic view on how people view "corrections" should be carried out.... and we call other countries barbaric.

Re:"Corrections" (1)

alen (225700) | about 2 months ago | (#46362361)

jail in the USA will pay you to do work for pay and allow you to get a free college education if you're not a violent person and will follow the rules while in jail

Re:"Corrections" (5, Informative)

Fwipp (1473271) | about 2 months ago | (#46362427)

Yay, work for pay. As little as 12 cents an hour, and a maximum of $1.15 an hour.

What wonderful opportunities we've afforded our inmates.

Re:"Corrections" (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about 2 months ago | (#46362703)

I'm sure there are plenty of people who'd come out way ahead on $1.15 with food and housing paid for.

Re:"Corrections" (4, Insightful)

twotacocombo (1529393) | about 2 months ago | (#46362617)

Yeah, and you're also IN JAIL, which looks great when you're applying for a nice white collar position in an attempt to use that education you received at Prison University. Prison time is pretty much a career death sentence in this country and the current economy; you'll most likely only work 'jobs'.

Re:"Corrections" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362725)

your essentially glorifying slave labor

Re:"Corrections" (0, Troll)

xevioso (598654) | about 2 months ago | (#46362419)

For someone in prison for life, I don't care about reforming them or punishing them. My concern is with keeping other people safe. The ones in for life have nothing to lose. So why not attack a guard just for kicks if you don't have to worry about going into solitary?

In fact, often the threat of solitary is the ONLY thing that keeps some prisoners from doing this.

Re:"Corrections" (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362531)

Did you even bother reading the summary? There are currently less than 3,500 prisoners in the US who are serving a life sentence, and over 80,000 who are in solitary confinement. Don't those numbers take the edge out of your argument ever so slightly?

Re:"Corrections" (5, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 months ago | (#46362539)

You should stop. Just stop. Clearly you don't know anything about the topic at hand and you are making a fool of yourself.

Reforming them s always better. Even if they don't get out of prison, having them be a calm member is safer and healthier.
There are people in for life that have nothing to do with safety.

Why you think being in for life means they'll do anything for kicks is baffling. Maybe you're the type of person who attacks people for kicks?

What you are talking about is a tiny percentage of those currently being held in solitary.
If someone is always attacking people, they have mental issues and should be treated as such.

"In fact, often the threat of solitary is the ONLY thing that keeps some prisoners from doing this."

Fact? what fact? you're ass?

Spot on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362727)

Exactly right. It is the way it is because American people are more interested in exacting revenge than rehabbing the offender. Nevermind that taking away somebody's freedom while they are being rehabbed is a punishment in and of itself.

Most practices in prisons (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362305)

Were taken directly from the dark ages, and were never designed or intended to rehabilitate but to satisfy the victims desire for revenge. And of course wield the power of the state and show how much worse it can be when you don't conform

Why is revenge still a role of justice? (5, Insightful)

Ichijo (607641) | about 2 months ago | (#46362325)

It's called "retributive justice," and ideally it isn't supposed to be personal, but until human judges are replaced with computer software, it will always be personal.

Would it be so bad if the only role of justice were to protect society while rehabilitating the offender? Some murderers might get out after only a year if they are properly rehabilitated, and serial kleptomaniacs may stay locked away forever, but at least prisons would be a nicer place for them if they weren't meant to be a form of punishment. I think this would do wonders for eliminating crime.

Re:Why is revenge still a role of justice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362367)

prisons would be a nicer place for them != do wonders for eliminating crime

Re:Why is revenge still a role of justice? (4, Insightful)

Fwipp (1473271) | about 2 months ago | (#46362461)

Actually, it turns out that the perceived odds of getting caught matter a lot more as a deterrent than the size of the punishment. What's the difference between 10 years and 20, when you've got to make rent next week or your mom will get kicked outta her home?

Re:Why is revenge still a role of justice? (5, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 months ago | (#46362601)

Actually it does.
W can look at the US's own history for this.
Through the 70s, prisons were corrective. they where nicer, people were treated humanly, and they had program so when the person got out, they had opportunities.
Recidivism rate were low.
Then Reagan era republicans started pushing hard for privatization of prisons.

Which lead to those company pushing for longer sentences and the BS 3 strike laws. They are also the reason for the myth of 'Advocate Judges'

When did we decide that all revenge is unjust? (2)

artor3 (1344997) | about 2 months ago | (#46362719)

Society needs revenge for certain crimes, for the sake of all our mental health. When we see evil people going unpunished, or even rewarded, it depresses us. Can you provide any rationale for why we should care so much about the comfort of a serial killer? Try to do so without appealing to some mystical, absolutist morality. Good luck.

Note: we're talking about serious crimes here. Non-violent offenders shouldn't be facing prison time at all, let alone solitary.

Re:When did we decide that all revenge is unjust? (5, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about 2 months ago | (#46362899)

Society needs revenge for certain crimes, for the sake of all our mental health.

Quite the opposite, actually. The quest for revenge is detrimental to one's mental health.

Can you provide any rationale for why we should care so much about the comfort of a serial killer?

Because we're supposed to be better than serial killers, we're supposed to be humane individuals. Because maybe we got the wrong guy, and it's worse to torture the wrong guy than to just lock up the wrong guy (though that's still very very bad). Because if we're going to imprison that serial killer with other people, people who are not serial killers and will eventually return to society, it's important how that serial killer acts towards fellow inmates. Because if we're interested in how to keep people from turning into serial killers, it's important to study that serial killer, to interview them in an atmosphere of some trust.

Non-violent offenders shouldn't be facing prison time at all, let alone solitary.

No jail time for burglars, then? Or car thieves or bank robbers who bust in after closing time? Interesting.

Re:When did we decide that all revenge is unjust? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362951)

Society needs revenge for certain crimes, for the sake of all our mental health. When we see evil people going unpunished, or even rewarded, it depresses us. Can you provide any rationale for why we should care so much about the comfort of a serial killer? Try to do so without appealing to some mystical, absolutist morality. Good luck.

Note: we're talking about serious crimes here. Non-violent offenders shouldn't be facing prison time at all, let alone solitary.

From a utilitarian point of view it would be wasteful to imprison them at all. If they can be rehabilitated for less than the utility they would generate as a productive well a juste member of society they should be otherwise they should be destroyed rather than wast resources keeping them alive.

Re:Why is revenge still a role of justice? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362797)

The role of imprisonment in the justice system carries several desired outcomes. First, it acts as a deterrent to criminals by making it clear that there is a consequence to their actions. Second, it serves as punishment of a criminal. Third, it serves as a protection for society from an individual criminal by directly preventing repeat offenses. Fourth, it serves as an opportunity to rehabilitate a criminal and turn them into a potentially productive member of society. A fifth role that most people don't particularly desire is it provide profits to the imprisonment industry. I claim that in much of the United States far too much attention is paid to the second role, and far too little to the fourth. The second role has no societal benefit; it is essentially a luxury. The fourth role provides real value and should be one of the most important aspects of the prison system.

Re:Why is revenge still a role of justice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362911)

At least one person has life in prison without parole because he stole some shoes.
Then you get people who punch someone to death and get 2 years.
Or that serial killer who got released because the prison was too full, and no one wanted him living near them so they had to secretly release him only for him to kill a bunch more people.
Or that guy who was in the victim protection program and managed to kill a bunch of people because the fucking FBI didn't give his old record when his prints were run.
Meanwhile some black guy steals a jacket and spends the rest of his life in prison.
Or in britain you get that kid who killed a 2 or 4 year old, and gets given a new identity when he gets released only to be found reading child porn.

Meanwhile some guy spends 9 years in prison on false rape charges. When he gets out the DA says he doesn't want to pursue the woman who made claims because it might prevent other women from reporting rape. I'm sure he really enjoyed all the rape in prison. I bet people are lining up to go do something about that.

What scares me the most is interviews with jurors.
Yeah we didn't believe the evidence, but we still thought he was guilty, because he didn't act emotionally????
Well fuck me and send me to prison right now, just because I keep my shit together.

80 sq. ft.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362337)

I agree that solitary confinement can be a horrifying thing that could be abused. For some perspective of the numbers, though (unless everyone has king-sized beds and likes the analogies in the summary), that is 8.6 sq. m., and here in Paris, you can legally rent apartments that are as small as 9 sq. m.

Re:80 sq. ft.? (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 2 months ago | (#46362465)

here in Paris, you can legally rent apartments that are as small as 9 sq. m.

And you can leave them whenever you want. In fact, the basic expectation when renting an apartment like that is that you won't be spending any significant amounts of time in it beyond sleeping (which is actually an incredibly expensive way to live).

Trapping someone in an environment that confined with no outside contact is torture, plain and simple. The human mind isn't evolved to look at a flat grey wall for 23 hours a day.

Re:80 sq. ft.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362913)

Sure, but you should admit that the summary was written from quite a position of privilege... it's like "my bed is bigger than that!" -- well, not everyone has a bed that big, bubba.

Re:80 sq. ft.? (1)

Fwipp (1473271) | about 2 months ago | (#46362487)

Sure, but in Paris, I assume you're allowed to leave your apartment for more than an hour a day. Unless... is this where the reputation of the French not getting any work done comes from?

Re:80 sq. ft.? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#46362691)

I'm assuming that you don't spend north of 22 hours/day in your apartment, with thrilling breaks in the, similarly sized, exercise cage?

I mean, so long as we are ignoring salient variables, I was in this elevator the other day, and the thing was tiny and all just brushed metal, without even furniture or plumbing, just a few buttons like some sick science experiment. I probably wouldn't have made it out with my humanity intact, except that the trip took 90 seconds!

realistic rick (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362349)

At some point - I think we need to be realistic about our goals. Is everyone really able to be rehabilitated? If the answer is no, then maybe the best you can do is to try to keep them from hurting someone else. As much as I dislike the death penalty, I can't help but feel that it actually might be more humane than solitary confinement for even relatively short (in prison term terms) durations.

Re:realistic rick (2, Insightful)

xevioso (598654) | about 2 months ago | (#46362483)

There's always been a debate in American society concerning justice...why do we put people in prison? To rehabilitate them? To punish them? To protect people in the outside world from them?

In some ways it can be argued that all three are useful as arguments.

But at the end of the day, in the real world, away from these sorts of philosophical arguments, there are real prisoners in for a stint with a hope to get out someday, and guards (who are free, with real outside lives) and then there are psychopaths. The facts are that there are SOME people whose only admitted goal in life is to cause as much harm to others as possible, because they enjoy it.

It is inhumane to the rest of the prison population and guards to keep these people near others. That is why you put them in solitary.

Kudos to Director Raemisch (5, Insightful)

surmak (1238244) | about 2 months ago | (#46362375)

I think what the director did is a great first step. Too bad that every judge, prosecutor, and correctional officer does not get the same experience before they have the power to send someone to such a hell hole.

Re:Kudos to Director Raemisch (1)

maliqua (1316471) | about 2 months ago | (#46362521)

correct me if i'm wrong but isnt solitary confinement usually temporary and assigned by the wardens or guards rather than the judge? i've never hard of anyone being sentanced to life in solitary but i may be mistaken

Re:Kudos to Director Raemisch (2)

sconeu (64226) | about 2 months ago | (#46362653)

RTFA. There are documented instances of prisoners spending 20 years in solitary.

Re:Kudos to Director Raemisch (1)

maliqua (1316471) | about 2 months ago | (#46362761)

yes i'm aware of that but was that decided by the judge/jury or after he was imprisoned by the wardens? I didn't see that mentioned

Re:Kudos to Director Raemisch (1)

maliqua (1316471) | about 2 months ago | (#46362781)

to be clear i was not making a statement i was asking a question that i didn't see addressed by the article

Re:Kudos to Director Raemisch (1)

Cederic (9623) | about 2 months ago | (#46362559)

I'd recommend a full week - a day is easy (relatively) to sleep through, make it last.

Prisons Poorly Managed (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362439)

The health of a prisoner is the responsibility of the state. Allowing damage, including mental illness, to an inmate should be criminal. The use of solitary confinement is not acceptable. Denial of the basics such as free to read books, access to media and films, poor food quality are all modes of torture and are not part of a prison sentence.
            Yes, inmates are often bad people. But the catch is that prison workers, cops, the people that accuse, the people in the justice system and the typical tax payer are alos usually really bad people.

We're not about rehabilitation (5, Interesting)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 2 months ago | (#46362469)

The US prison system is about profit first, punishment second, making an example third, more profit fourth, more punishment fifth, other things, and then maybe sometime much later down the line rehabilitation. They spend more money on laundry security than they do on conscious efforts to rehabiltate prisoners for re-entry into society.

Socially accepted uses of a prison: (3, Interesting)

quietwalker (969769) | about 2 months ago | (#46362865)

1. Remove a danger to society
2. Acting as a deterrent
3. As a punitive measure (strongly related to item #2)
4. To provide rehabilitation

To date, analysis[1] has shown that never in the verifiable recorded history of crime and punishment, has any prison, anywhere, ever had a non-negligible impact on recidivism rates. Some pre-established percentage of people continue to commit crimes after a jail sentence, regardless of changes to enable rehabilitation. Education, trade skills, access to medicine & counselors, 'nice' quarters, access to games and exercise, work release programs, etc - no appreciable impact.

Even punishments like public shaming (very big in medieval times) have no impact on the average number of individuals willing to commit the crime again. Even torture (short of permanent harm) has no real lasting impact, though it does often result in the individuals using more effort to reduce the risks of getting caught.

In short, prisons do not rehabilitate prisoners, and they never have.[2] [3]

Pretending they they do, or can and then making screeching noises when they fail - or worse, throwing money at them so they can try yet another fad get-lawful-quick program is just irrational. Blaming the system for not working as one expects only shows the value of those expectations.

Here's the takeaway: The only things prisons are good for is removing a danger from society and providing a punitive threat as a deterrent - and even that last one has only limited impact.

For those interested in constructive comments, the fix is obvious and simple; spend that money on fixing those parts of society that give rise to crime. Focus on education, focus on a two-parent household, focus on employable skills, and so on.

[1] - oy. Google it, read some books, and take a few criminal justice classes. Personally, I'd start with this book, http://www.amazon.com/CRIMINAL... [amazon.com] because it's a fascinating read, but your mileage may vary.
[2] - though there's nothing to say they couldn't eventually. Maybe cryogenically freeze them and subliminally imprint upon them the desire to knit when they're stressed? Could work.
[3] - Technically, life in prison works, in that they don't commit any more crimes, but the important point to note is that rehabilitation programs STILL have no impact on this rate. So it doesn't count either.

You have bigger things to get excited about. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362569)

You should not lose sleep over this. For a start these numbers have been pumped by a half-baked media system to get people like you excited, but mainly because, at least in part, most of these people had some level of choice. Worry first about those who are killed and imprisoned for no reason at all, then try to save the damned.

repeat offenders? (1)

jcgam69 (994690) | about 2 months ago | (#46362639)

Prisoners should be treated humanely. I get that. What I would like to know is how many prisoners who were released after being confined in solitary for a long period of time are repeat offenders. I suspect that, given the horrible conditions of solitary, most of them would do anything to avoid going back to prison. If that is true, then it really is an effective rehabilitation technique, and ultimately reduces crime.

Re:repeat offenders? (1)

qbast (1265706) | about 2 months ago | (#46362847)

Problem is that after enough time in solitary, they are pretty much insane. Who knows what they do? And if seriously say that it *should* be horrible because it reduces crime, then why stop at putting someone in cage for years? There are many old and proven methods that do the same more quickly - standard beatings, rape, waterboarding, ripping off fingernails, electric current applied to genitals, etc. Hell, let's give everybody week long 'preview' at age of 10 - then we will have perfect crime-free society.

Ain't that bad in small doses... (5, Interesting)

ktakki (64573) | about 2 months ago | (#46362659)

I just did five years in Federal prison and did two stretches in the SHU (basically solitary), totaling about two months. First time was for drawing on a paper food service hat. Second time was for being a smartass to the prison shrink.

Me, I didn't mind it so much. Peace and quiet (though occasionally you get a screamer on the range). Got some reading done. Meditated.

But you only get to make one call every thirty days. No coffee, no commissary. The cops keep the place cold like a meat locker. Lights never go off.

It's not for violent criminals. You get sucker punched or stomped and you go to the SHU for 30 days for an "investigation". You file a grievence against a staff member and you go in for a 90-day "investigation". You get the flu or scabies and you're in there for two weeks: quarantine.

The really violent people end up on a USP or AD-Max in Florence, CO.

I didn't mind the SHU because I enjoy a bit of solitude now and then. But in California, there are guys who've spent decades in the hole. That totally fucks you up.

-k.

Not much larger? (1)

tsqr (808554) | about 2 months ago | (#46362779)

Most prisoners in solitary confinement spend at least 23 hours per day restricted to cells of 80 square feet, not much larger than a king-size bed.

Apparently, the definition of "not much larger" is flexible enough to accommodate "almost twice as large". A standard King bed is about 42 square feet.

Yeah get them integrated into society with rape (2)

Baldrson (78598) | about 2 months ago | (#46362803)

Far superior to solitary confinement, particularly for white prisoners, is to put them in wings with active ethnic gangs to teach them tolerance.

Here is [hrw.org] Human Rights Watch's discussion of how ethnic gangs teach white prisoners tolerance:

Past studies have documented the prevalence of black on white sexual aggression in prison.(213) These findings are further confirmed by Human Rights Watch's own research. Overall, our correspondence and interviews with white, black, and Hispanic inmates convince us that white inmates are disproportionately targeted for abuse.(214) Although many whites reported being raped by white inmates, black on white abuse appears to be more common. To a much lesser extent, non-Hispanic whites also reported being victimized by Hispanic inmates.

Other than sexual abuse of white inmates by African Americans, and, less frequently, Hispanics, interracial and interethnic sexual abuse appears to be much less common than sexual abuse committed by persons of one race or ethnicity against members of that same group. In other words, African Americans typically face sexual abuse at the hands of other African Americans, and Hispanics at the hands of other Hispanics. Some inmates told Human Rights Watch that this pattern reflected an inmate rule, one that was strictly enforced: "only a black can turn out [rape] a black, and only a chicano can turn out a chicano."(215)

The benefits of this therapy have been documented by the government's study of the phenomenon [usatoday.com] :

Prison rape worldview doesn't interpret sexual pressure as coercion," he wrote. "Rather, sexual pressure ushers, guides or shepherds the process of sexual awakening.

Imagine the homophobia to which the world would be subjected if it weren't for the sexual awakening offered by the government's integration of angry white males with the rest of society.

"If we can't eliminate solitary confinement" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46362821)

It's not that we can't, it's just that we won't. Violent prisoners who attack other prisoners should be segregated and isolated, but other than that I see no reason to put someone in solitary.

Re:"If we can't eliminate solitary confinement" (1)

kthreadd (1558445) | about 2 months ago | (#46362871)

Maybe there are other ways to make prisoners less violent. I guess they are violent for a reason, and if you remove that reason then maybe they won't be violent anymore. Sometimes you just need to treat people well and they will change.

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