Long Term Mental Health Effects of Solitary Confinement


In the United States, there are about 75,000 state and federal prisoners being held in solitary confinement on any given day. The majority spend 23 hours or more per day in their cells alone. Inmates who have spent years in solitary confinement sometimes refer to it as “a concrete tomb,” and often feel the chilling effects of isolation years after the fact.

Dr. Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California, interviewed prisoners being held in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison in California in 1993. When he returned 20 years later, he was shocked to see that many of the same prisoners were still living in solitary confinement. Among Dr. Haney’s findings: the prisoners in solitary confinement were much more likely than the general prison population to suffer from psychiatric issues such as depression, confused thinking, feelings of “an impending breakdown,” anxiety, paranoia, perceptual disturbances, and violent dreams. One prisoner claimed that he often thought he heard a voice calling his name, and would see things move. Others say they felt like they experienced a “social death,” and “long-term mental torture.” Dr. Haney was told by one inmate he interviewed that the one hour interview was the most the inmate had spoken in years.

Even prisoners without mental health struggles will feel the mental effects of solitary confinement. So when an individual who is already suffering from mental illness is placed in solitary, the effects can be devastating. Mentally ill inmates who are not receiving the help and support they need are likely to “act up” and find themselves sitting in solitary confinement, yet being in solitary confinement only makes their problems worse. This is just another reason why jail is not the place for individuals with serious mental illness- they need to be in the hospital. It’s common for those struggling with mental health issues to get caught up in the justice system, and it’s tragic.

If you are in the Phoenix metro area and have a loved one who suffers from serious mental illness and is facing criminal charges, don’t let their fate be determined by an unmerciful criminal justice system. Contact a mental illness defense lawyer today.

Read the original article here.

Posted in Mental Health Defenses |