20 Jun New York Times Editorial Board Publishes Piece Decrying Tortures of Solitary Confinement in NYC Jails
The New York Times | Opinion Pages | Editorial
The Abuse of Solitary Confinement
JUNE 20, 2012
Solitary confinement in this country has devolved from a short-term punishment imposed infrequently for violating prison rules into a routine form of prison management. Today, tens of thousands of local, state and federal prisoners are held in prolonged abusive isolation — in tiny, windowless cells for up to 23 hours a day.
On Tuesday, a Senate judiciary subcommittee met to consider the many costs of this practice — the first time that Congress has even acknowledged the problem.
More than 80,000 of the nation’s 2.3 million prisoners are held in isolation, noted the subcommittee’s chairman, Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat of Illinois. While defenders claim that solitary confinement is needed to control the most violent prisoners, prolonged isolation is known to induce suffering and mental illness. About half of prison suicides take place in isolation units.
A 2006 study of prison safety and abuse led by a former federal court of appeals judge, John Gibbons, and a former attorney general, the late Nicholas de B. Katzenbach, raised concerns about higher recidivism rates when prisoners are released directly from solitary to the community. High rates of security segregation can actually increase incidents of violence.
Some of the most moving testimony at the hearing came from Anthony Graves, who was wrongly convicted of murder and served a decade of his 18 years in incarceration in brutal solitary confinement in Texas before his exoneration and release from prison in 2010. He described the agony of living in the “worst conditions imaginable” and the continued psychological toll….