Mental Illness and Psychological Effects of Solitary Confinement

Resources documenting how solitary confinement exacerbates pre-existing mental illness and causes mental illness:

"Solitary Confinement Fact Sheet" by National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2013. A fact sheet that shows solitary confinement by the numbers. It focuses on the harmful effects of solitary confinement, especially for people with serious mental illnesses.

"City Plans New Approach to Disciplining Mentally Ill Inmates" by Vivian Yee, The New York Times, May 12, 2013. In July, New York City will implement alternatives to solitary confinement for mentally ill inmates. Instead of isolation, inmates who are severely mentall ill will be transferred to an internal clinic for counseling, treatment and medicine.

"The Ninth Circle of Hell: An Eighth Amendment Analysis of Imposing Prolonged Supermax Solitary Confinement on Inmates with a Mental Illness" by Thomas Hafemeister and Jeff George, Denver University Law Review, February 13, 2013. Abstract: ...Housing inmates with a mental disorder in prolonged supermax solitary confinement deprives them of a minimal life necessity because this setting poses a significant risk to their basic level of mental health, a need “as essential to human existence as other basic physical demands,” and thereby meets the objective element required for an Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim. In addition, placing such inmates in supermax confinement constitutes deliberate indifference to their needs because this setting subjects this class of readily identifiable and vulnerable inmates to a present and known risk by knowingly placing them in an environment that is uniquely toxic to their condition, thereby satisfying the subjective element needed for an Eighth Amendment claim. Whether it is called torture, a violation of evolving standards of human decency, or cruel and unusual punishment, truly “a risk this grave — this shocking and indecent — simply has no place in civilized society.”

"Position Statement on Segregation of Prisoners with Mental Illness" by the American Psychological Association (APA), November-December 2012. This statement highlights the importance of not placing inmates with mental illness in prolonged segregation. It often worsens or does not improve their condition. Instead clincal programming should be provided for these individuals.

"Testimony of Professor Craig Haney" Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights Hearing on Solitary Confinement, June 19, 2012. Professor Haney, a psychology professor who has studied the effects of solitary confinement for over thirty years, testifies before the Senate subcommittee about his findings.

"Testimony of Stuart M. Andrews" Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights Hearing on Solitary Confinement, June 19, 2012. Andrews testifies before the Senate subcommittee in his capacity as an attorney with Nelson Mullins law firm, which is party to a class action lawsuit on behalf of South Carolina inmates with mental illness who have been held in solitary confinement.

Solitary Confinement and Supermax Prisons: A Human Rights and Ethical Analysis” by Sharon Shalev, Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice, Taylor & Francis Group, 2011. Abstract: This article examines how the prolonged solitary confinement and additional deprivations in supermax prisons measure up against legal protections afforded to those deprived of their liberty. It suggests that if the prohibition against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment were to be taken at face value, supermax confinement would meet the definition of what constitutes such treatment, and urges the courts to re-examine their position regarding supermax confinement. It also suggests that health professionals are well placed, and ethically bound, to play a more active part in efforts to curtail the use of prolonged solitary confinement in all places of detention.

"Fatal Flaws in the Colorado Solitary Confinement Study" by Stuart Grassian, Solitary Watch, November 15, 2010. Dr. Grassian critiques a study finding that solitary confinement improved the well-being of prisoners with mental illness.

"Psychiatrists Decry Punishment That Isolates Prisoners" by Rich Daly, Psychiatric News, September 3, 2010. This article discusses differing viewpoints of psychologists and psychiatrists on the effects of solitary confinement on mental health. 

"Locking Down the Mentally Ill" by Jim Ridgeway, The Crime Report, February 18, 2010. Ridgeway argues that solitary confinement cells in U.S. prisons have essentially taken the place of mental institutions.

"The Psychological Effects of Solitary Confinement on Prisoners in Supermax Units" by Bruce A. Arrigo and Jennifer Leslie Bullock, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, Sage Publications, December 2008. Abstract: This article examines the psychological consequences of short- and long-term solitary confinement for prisoners in the United States subjected to administrative or disciplinary segregation. Particular attention is paid to the use of secure housing units, alternatively known as control units or supermax units. These correctional entities allow for the isolation of convicts under conditions that offer little sensory stimulation and minimal opportunities for interaction with other people. The circumstances typically found in these units and the heightened potential for the abuse of prisoners are described. The connections between internment and mental illness—as well as isolation and race, gender, and class—are explored. A set of recommendations for the reform of secure housing is presented.

"A Culture of Harm: Taming the Dynamics of Cruelty in Supermax Prisons" by Craig Haney, Criminal Justice and Behavior, 2008. Haney argues that prisoner abuse is often heightened in supermax prisons, especially among prisoners with mental illness.

"Sourcebook on solitary confinement" by Sharon Shalev, Manheim Centre for Criminology, 2008. This sourcebook documents the health effects of solitary confinement and the professional, ethical and human rights guidelines relating to its use. Additionally, the sourcebook offers safeguards and mechanisms to limit solitary confinement.

"What to do with the Survivors? Coping with the Long-Term Effects of Isolated Confinement" by Terry A. Kupers, Wright Institute, 2008. Kupers proposes that criminal sentences are often extended for mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement.

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