That bold statement is coming from a source you might not expect ... wait for it ... conservative writer George Will, in the Washington Post.
We doubt anyone would call Will a liberal, much less a bleeding heart one, and that's good -- because you don't have to be either to agree that the use of extended solitary confinement in America's prisons is just plain cruel. Take it from Will, who makes good arguments that solitary confinement is inhumane, expensive, and undermines public safety:
Federal law on torture prohibits conduct “specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” And “severe” physical pain is not limited to “excruciating or agonizing” pain, or pain “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily functions, or even death.” The severe mental suffering from prolonged solitary confinement puts the confined at risk of brain impairment.
Supermax prisons isolate inmates from social contact. Often prisoners are in their cells, sometimes smaller than 8 by 12 feet, 23 hours a day, released only for a shower or exercise in a small fenced-in outdoor space. Isolation changes the way the brain works, often making individuals more impulsive, less able to control themselves. The mental pain of solitary confinement is crippling: Brain studies reveal durable impairments and abnormalities in individuals denied social interaction. Plainly put, prisoners often lose their minds. ...
Mass incarceration is expensive (California spends almost twice as much on prisons as on universities) and solitary confinement costs, on average, three times as much per inmate as in normal prisons. And remember: Most persons now in solitary confinement will someday be back on America’s streets, some of them rendered psychotic by what are called correctional institutions.And leave it to George Will to quote the likes of Charles Dickens in opposition to locking people away all alone:
Two centuries ago, solitary confinement was considered a humane reform, promoting reflection, repentance — penitence; hence penitentiaries — and rehabilitation. Quakerism influenced the design of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, which opened in 1829 with a regime of strict solitude. In 1842, Charles Dickens visited it:
“I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain, to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body: and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh; because its wounds are not upon the surface, and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear; therefore I the more denounce it, as a secret punishment which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay.”Wow. Read that again. It packs a wollop.
Here at SentenceSpeak, we're always trying to paint a full picture of what it means to send someone to prison. Prison means solitary confinement for many people. Let's not forget the full wollop of a prison sentence, and let's work to make incarceration as humane as possible -- and prison sentences not a day longer than necessary to keep us safe and rehabilitate offenders.