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Post Partisan
Posted at 03:40 PM ET, 07/02/2012

PostScript: Solitary confinement as torture

A holiday week is a particularly good time for The Post’s Editorial Board to have tackled solitary confinement; everyone has left the office. We the PostScripters remain, to find out what people think about abolishing solitary confinement, as The Post advocates today. Hundreds of years of the practice and we’ve only got a couple great Russian novelists to show for it, so it’s time to pack it in.

The commenters react in several ways: boo freakin’ hoo; YES, OBVIOUSLY IT’S A TERRIBLE IDEA; and hey Washington Post, where were you when the U.S. was waterboarding people?

chaos1 sums up that point:

While it is surely true that solitary confinement is barbaric, it’s more than a little ironic that this is coming from a newspaper that couldn’t bring itself to call waterboarding torture.

(For what it’s worth, the Editorial Board has called waterboarding torture for years, and on several occasions.)

There is a bit of a middle ground on the question of solitary — or rather, a response that people on both sides have: If someone is a danger to other inmates and guards, what’s the alternative?

tidelandermdva wonders:

What do we do with lifers who kill corrections officers if we don’t kill them?

jamesbatic thinks solitary confinement is on its way out but isn’t sure what can replace it:

Before the practice is abolished, I hope alternatives can be found that will protect guards and other prisoners from repeated violent attacks that could be prevented by isolating the offenders.
As far as these offenders’ social development being “stunted”, I think that ship has already sailed.

sanfran6003 agrees:

If they commit violent acts in the most confining supermax situation, how do you deal with them? That question has lingered for more than one hundred years.

mischanova opines that solitary also keeps prisoners from their criminal friends on the outside:

In CA, many who are in solitary are not in with a hope of rehabilitation. They are gang leaders in for life and are still running their gangs from prision. No one has found a way to prevent them from doing so, aside from cutting off their ability to communicate. They refuse to voluntarily do so. Any suggestions how best to do this without using solitary confinement?

On the other hand, ericcallenking says that undermining a prisoner’s sanity hardly makes him or her easier to incarcerate:

You cannot be made to feel remorse and see the error of your ways if your mental condition is deteriorating and you are becoming more antisocial through lack of contact with others. This doesn’t mean being lenient to prisoners, quite the contrary, it realizes that the only just punishment is making prisoners conscious of their crimes, awakening the conscience of the individual, you can’t do this if the individual’s mental state is deteriorating into antisocial psychosis.

brwntrt argues that incarceration is about confining the most dangerous people until they’re dead or too weak to be a threat:

Let us not delude ourselves into believing most of the inmates housed in solitary confinement will be rehabilitated or reformed.
Truth be told, society warehouses inmates who have committed serious felonies until they either pass while incarcerated or can be released after they no longer pose a substantial risk of harm. Inmates tend to age or burn out faster than those on the outside.

Alba Gu Brath says he or she has firsthand experience, and doesn’t like solitary but doesn’t know what to do instead:

As a prison officer in Scotland I have a little knowledge albeit in a different context and legal system.
Solitary confinement is a powerful weapon and must be used with regret and humility. It must be used for very short periods and under medical advice and control.
If prison worked we would have fewer prisons.

In the meantime, we at PostScript remains alone at our desks, entirely surrounded by empty cubicle-atolls. We are very lonely. We are developing an idea for a depressing Russian novel.

By Rachel Manteuffel  |  03:40 PM ET, 07/02/2012

 
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