Crime, Law, and Society

Criminal Justice in America, solitary confinement or separate confinement is defined as a penitentiary system in which each inmate is held in isolation from other inmates, and all activities take place within the cells. In 1787, the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons was formed by Quakers after they became inspired by John Howard, an English Sheriff who had written about the horrible conditions in prisons he had visited.

This society argued that criminals could be reformed if they were placed in penitentiaries and isolated room society and from one another, so that they could reflect on their crimes and repent. Soon after forming, the Pennsylvania legislature authorized the building of a penitentiary based on the system of separate confinement.

It was believed that solitary confinement would prevent further corruption from inside prisons, it would allow offenders to reflect on their crimes, it would be an irritating punishment because humans are naturally social, and it would be economical because it would not take long for the reformation process to affect the criminal. In 1834, another Pennsylvania prison based on this system was subject to outside investigations that detailed negative effects of separate confinement; prisoners were not reforming, physical punishments were being used as discipline, and the extended isolation resulted in many prisoners having mental breakdowns.

After watching the frontline documentary “Solitary Nation”, I think it that solitary confinement should only be used in situations where an inmate has committed a serious infraction. There are an estimated 80,000 inmates across the United States in solitary confinement. Todd Thicket, who is in prison for arson, is a good example of why it is wrong to segregate criminals for performing mild to moderate infractions. There is one instance where Todd had made a suicide attempt and officers were unable to offer immediate medical aid until he would handcuff himself.

Some inmates, like 21 year old Adam Brutal, claim that they can handle it; Adam can read, write, and do pushup to pass the time. He claims surviving segregation simply requires a strong mind. Within a few months, Adam makes an attempt on his life by severing veins in his arm. According to Lamar Kelly, an inmate at Maine State Prison, there are 20 such incidents per month. The practice of solitary confinement began in the eighteen hundreds as a progressive experiment to see if isolation would help criminals reform.

This idea was soon abandoned when it was revealed that prisoners not only did not reform, but also lost their minds. The practice of solitary confinement was revived in the sass as a method to stamp out prison violence. The warden at Maine State Prison, Rodney Bradford, believes that solitary confinement should only be used for extremely violent criminals, and that it is very overused throughout the United States. One example of an incredibly violent and dangerous criminal is Peter Gibbs; he has made many threats to kill the warden and other inmates.

Many would argue that Peter is the type of criminal who deserves to be confined, however Peter makes a good point when he says “it’s a fantasy to think you’re going to change a man who doesn’t want to change. ” In some cases, isolating criminals who do not want to change may only be contributing to their mental illnesses. Dry. Dan Banish says that consequences must be enforced among the inmates, even if such consequences do not benefit the inmates. The documentary does not end optimistically.

Maine State Prison does drastically reduce the number of prisoners held in solitary confinement, but there was at least one incident where an inmate was released and shortly afterward stabbed someone 87 times, and many of the inmates featured in “Solitary Nation” went on to make more attempts on their lives. I think that infractions which result in solitary confinement need to be much less strict and should result in much less time spent in isolation, although there are cases where it can be a deserved punishment. I also think that other options, such as counseling, should be used in place of the lesser infractions.

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