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Mental Health Policy and Outreach

Within Solitary Confinement Transcript

Within Solitary Confinment by Joshua Cottle


Within Solitary Confinement

*Noises simulating opening prison cell doors

We commonly think that solitary confinement is only for the worst of criminals. Well, maybe not. Of those sent to solitary confinement, many are sent because of possessing a cell phone, attempted suicide, using profanity, or having too many postage stamps.

Almost 20 percent of prisoners have experienced solitary confinement. Even more alarming, 10 percent of prisoners have spent over 30 days in solitary confinement.

Imagine spending at least 22 hours a day in cell all by yourself. You have no windows, no regular human interaction, and you receive food through a slot in the door.

*Thunder and storms

Prisoners express feeling so restricted and damaged that they search for ways to harm themselves simply out of boredom. While in solitary confinement, prisoners are more than two times as likely to harm themselves compared to those who do not spend any time in solitary confinement. After being released, prisoners are over six times as likely to harm themselves and ten times as likely to harm themselves multiple times.

Solitary confinement does not even include fiscal advantages. In many cases, restrictive housing can cost twice that of standard housing, and even up to three times as much.

So what can we do instead of restrictive housing? We can prohibit those with a current or history of mental illnesses from being placed in solitary confinement. We can engage officers and prison staff with prisoners, especially those in solitary confinement, in a way that encourages positive behavior and enhanced collaboration. And we establish more cognitive-behavioral programs, designed to assist in changing problematic and violent behavior.

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