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Fri Nov 9, 2018, 11:40 PM

Neuroscientists Make a Case against Solitary Confinement

Prolonged social isolation can do severe, long-lasting damage to the brain

By Dana G. Smith on November 9, 2018

SAN DIEGO—Robert King spent 29 years living alone in a six by nine-foot prison cell.

He was part of the “Angola Three”—a trio of men kept in solitary confinement for decades and named for the Louisiana state penitentiary where they were held. King was released in 2001 after a judge overturned his 1973 conviction for killing a fellow inmate. Since his exoneration he has dedicated his life to raising awareness about the psychological harms of solitary confinement.

“People want to know whether or not I have psychological problems, whether or not I’m crazy—‘How did you not go insane?’” King told a packed session at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting here this week. “I look at them and I tell them, ‘I did not tell you I was not insane.’ I don’t mean I was psychotic or anything like that, but being placed in a six by nine by 12–foot cell for 23 hours a day, no matter how you appear on the outside, you are not sane.”

There are an estimated 80,000 people, mostly men, in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. They are confined to windowless cells roughly the size of a king bed for 23 hours a day, with virtually no human contact except for brief interactions with prison guards. According to scientists speaking at the conference session, this type of social isolation and sensory deprivation can have traumatic effects on the brain, many of which may be irreversible. Neuroscientists, lawyers and activists such as King have teamed up with the goal of abolishing solitary confinement as cruel and unusual punishment.

Most prisoners sentenced to solitary confinement remain there for one to three months (pdf), although nearly a quarter spend over a year there; the minimum amount of time is usually 15 days. The most common reasons for being sent to solitary are for preventive measures, which can be indefinite, or for punishment, which is more likely to have a set end point. Several states have passed legislation limiting who can be in solitary confinement, including mentally ill and juvenile offenders, and for how long. The United Nations recommends banning solitary confinement for more than 15 days, saying any longer constitutes torture.


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Reply Neuroscientists Make a Case against Solitary Confinement (Original post)
Judi Lynn Nov 9 OP
Duppers Nov 10 #1

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sat Nov 10, 2018, 08:06 AM

1. K & R for sanity.

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