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Thread: Solitary Confinement

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    No Blorg's Avatar
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    Solitary Confinement

    Is it torture? Is it ever ok?

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2...a_fact_gawande

    One of the paradoxes of solitary confinement is that, as starved as people become for companionship, the experience typically leaves them unfit for social interaction...Craig Haney, a psychology professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, received rare permission to study a hundred randomly selected inmates at California’s Pelican Bay supermax, and noted a number of phenomena. First, after months or years of complete isolation, many prisoners “begin to lose the ability to initiate behavior of any kind—to organize their own lives around activity and purpose,” he writes. “Chronic apathy, lethargy, depression, and despair often result. . . . In extreme cases, prisoners may literally stop behaving,” becoming essentially catatonic.

    Second, almost ninety per cent of these prisoners had difficulties with “irrational anger,” compared with just three per cent of the general population.* Haney attributed this to the extreme restriction, the totality of control, and the extended absence of any opportunity for happiness or joy. Many prisoners in solitary become consumed with revenge fantasies.
    ...
    Everyone’s identity is socially created: it’s through your relationships that you understand yourself as a mother or a father, a teacher or an accountant, a hero or a villain. But, after years of isolation, many prisoners change in another way that Haney observed. They begin to see themselves primarily as combatants in the world, people whose identity is rooted in thwarting prison control.
    The main argument for using long-term isolation in prisons is that it provides discipline and prevents violence. When inmates refuse to follow the rules—when they escape, deal drugs, or attack other inmates and corrections officers—wardens must be able to punish and contain the misconduct. Presumably, less stringent measures haven’t worked, or the behavior would not have occurred. And it’s legitimate to incapacitate violent aggressors for the safety of others. So, advocates say, isolation is a necessary evil, and those who don’t recognize this are dangerously naïve.
    I have a solid opinion on this but I'm not sure how controversial solitary confinement is (at least in this forum)/how much opinions will differ, so I'll leave it at those questions.


    from the perspective of someone who was kept in solitary confinement (it's really depressing, I have a thick reading skin but it was a bit too much, so fyi): http://solitarywatch.com/2013/03/11/...se-than-death/

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    Global Moderator Polemarch's Avatar
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    For extended periods of time, yes I consider it to be torture.

    For short periods of time, particularly in cases where the person is having trouble controlling their emotions, I think it can be warranted.

    I'm not sure how best to define extended or short. My initial guess: extended is anything more than a day.

    In no cases should someone be kept in sensory deprivation (i.e. total darkness, starvation, etc.)
    We didn't land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us.

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    Limber Member floid's Avatar
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    José Mujica, the president of Uruguay, is said to have spent 10 years in solitary confinement.
    I don't know if that has anything to do with it, but he is the only national leader I know of who actually lives the life the majority of his constituents do, which is unprecedented anywhere else in the world.
    Such a requirement in the U.S. would clean out Washington faster than anything else would, though.

    I don't think it is helpful for more than a day or two if rehabilitation is to be the goal of incarceration.

    But if the goal of incarceration is punishment and torture then it suffices with a plethora of other diabolical methods to get the job done.

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    Meae Musae Servus Hephaestus's Avatar
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    Am I the only one who read the article, specifically the part about the diatribes of people in solitary, who immediately thought of Youtube comments?

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    On a related note, I found this:

    http://www.bbc.com/future/story/2014...on-warps-minds

    Food for thought.

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    No Blorg's Avatar
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    I think this is mainly an American issue. I couldn't find many statistics about solitary confinement in other countries (maybe other members would know more). Then there's this:

    https://www.aclu.org/blog/prisoners-...violates-human

    The U.S. is unique among nations in its use of solitary confinement as an integral and regular component of its treatment of prisoners. Though there are no official numbers, a conservative estimate is that about 80,000 human beings are locked alone for 22 hours or more each day in small, often windowless cells, isolated from any human contact (with the exception of very limited contact with prison staff), with no access to classes, job training, drug treatment, work or any other kind of rehabilitative programming. The mentally ill, disproportionately represented in solitary confinement, often become even more desperately ill, sometimes engaging in self-mutilation or even suicide. Even some healthy prisoners begin to exhibit symptoms of mental illness after a short time in solitary. Thousands of youth are also locked away in this manner each day, in both adult and juvenile facilities.
    ----

    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    Am I the only one who read the article, specifically the part about the diatribes of people in solitary, who immediately thought of Youtube comments?
    not sure what you mean.

    It seems like implying that youtube trolls display the same characteristics as confined people (yes/no?). So by extension the internet is breeding socially inept and disturbed recluses, basically latching onto the withdrawn tendencies some people have and amplifying those tendencies so that instead of growing up/growing out of their awkwardness, they revel in it. I don't think so. Solitary confinement is much more intense, it's a completely different thing, that's like comparing what it feels like to step on a nail to what it feels like to be impaled by a sword. I disagree with the trivialization. But I don't know what you mean anyway.

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    Meae Musae Servus Hephaestus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chobani View Post
    not sure what you mean.
    I agree that the comparative isolation of the internet shut-in is a very very different thing than solitary. Even if we remove the obvious difference in ability to choose to go out and start interacting with meat people by dealing say, and extreme case incorporating overwhelming anxiety disorders. They still have vastly greater mental stimulation available to them as evidenced by my having them interact via youtube.

    But the violent and disgusting nature of the diatribes wasn't linked by the author to the rigors of isolation, but to the lack of repercussion for saying what they said. That's why I was reminded of Youtube. I found it interesting and ironic because in a way, even without ever having accessed the internet, he still experienced the worst of what the internet has given us, and for notably similar reasons--but again, Youtube/redit/etc accomplish that without the over mental anguish.

    I found it interesting.

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    No Blorg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    But the violent and disgusting nature of the diatribes wasn't linked by the author to the rigors of isolation, but to the lack of repercussion for saying what they said. That's why I was reminded of Youtube. I found it interesting and ironic because in a way, even without ever having accessed the internet, he still experienced the worst of what the internet has given us, and for notably similar reasons--but again, Youtube/redit/etc accomplish that without the over mental anguish.
    yeah that is interesting. I wonder if that type of internet culture will affect punishments or ideas about prisons, at some point/in some way.

    Just to me, without knowing much about technology (plus dumb pseudophilosophy) it seems like tech aims to decrease external repercussions and increase potential internal repercussions/control. (I guess you could say that it only aims to decrease negative external repercussions, but I think that internal repercussions and positive (perceived positive) external repercussions according to human psychology are basically the same thing.) So that's cool in a superficial way, but it also means that people will unintentionally build their own prisons and die of superficial happiness (not now but in the future I envision). There's too much emphasis on "forward progress" and not enough emphasis on introspection and figuring out how intuition works-- instead of trying to figure out what makes people happy, all the emphasis is on figuring out how to make them happy. The imbalance in research makes it so that progress is kind of random, ineffective and superficial, and it'll cause the end of the world/drive everyone crazy eventually.

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