We have all seen the movies. Solitary confinement is the most feared and destructive thing. Man have argued that solitary confinement should be done away with completely.
An independent United Nations human rights expert today called on the United States to immediately end the indefinite solitary confinement imposed on Albert Woodfox for the past four decades.
“Keeping Albert Woodfox in solitary confinement for more than four decades clearly amounts to torture and it should be lifted immediately,” said the Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, who has repeatedly urged the US Government to abolish the use of prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement.
Solitary confinement of prisoners exists under a range of names: isolation, control units, supermax prisons, the hole, SHUs, administrative segregation, maximum security, or permanent lockdown.
Although conditions vary from state to state and in different institutions, systematic policies and conditions of control and oppression used in isolation and segregation include:
- Confinement behind a solid steel door for 23 hours a day
- Limited contact with other human beings
- Infrequent phone calls and rare non-contact family visits
- Extremely limited access to rehabilitative or educational programming
- Grossly inadequate medical and mental health treatment
- Restricted reading material and personal property
- Physical torture such as hog-tying, restraint chairs, and forced cell extraction
- Mental torture such as sensory deprivation, permanent bright lighting, extreme temperatures, and forced insomnia
- Sexual intimidation and violence
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Numerous studies have documented the effects of solitary confinement on prisoners giving them the name Special Housing Unit Syndrome or SHU Syndrome. Some of the many SHU Syndrome symptoms include:
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Hypersensitivity to noise and touch
- Insomnia and paranoia
- Uncontrollable feelings of rage and fear
- Distortions of time and perception
- Increased risk of suicide
If one is not mentally ill when entering an isolation unit, by the time they are released their mental health has been severely compromised.
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