The UNC School of Law's Immigration/Human Rights Clinic recently released a study that equates solitary confinement with torture, according to The Fayetteville Observer.
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina is among the organizations that supported the university's 217-page study, which provides a blunt assessment:
"Our conclusion is straightforward and simple: solitary confinement is ineffective at decreasing violence within prisons; it is ineffective at preserving public safety; it is ineffective at managing scarce monetary resources; and it violates the boundaries of human dignity and justice. Prison officials and the courts must find a way to end the practice without delay."
The study, titled "Solitary Confinement as Torture," says the state places an "inordinately high proportion" of prisoners in solitary confinement - nearly 10 percent of the state's 37,628 prisoners were in control units. The report says the percentage does not appear to include disciplinary and administrative segregation, "which could push the number of prisoners in solitary conditions much, much higher."
The report says prisoners are "confined for 22-24 hours a day to small concrete boxes. The air is recirculated, reeking of the putrid environment in which it is trapped. Human interaction is limited to the give-and-take with corrections officers, who often suffer institutional dehumanization that leaves them indifferent to the suffering of their wards."
One of the study's authors, UNC Professor Deborah M. Weissman, said the N.C. Department of Correction's recommended improvements "do not address the fact that it is too easy to place prisoners in solitary and too difficult to get out. As a form of punishment, it is meted out without adequate due process protections and crosses the threshold of acceptable punishment. We suggest it is a form of torture."
Weissman said studies clearly show that extreme isolation causes severe psychological problems for prisoners who previously did not have mental problems and exacerbates such conditions for those who do.
"Based on the criminological and mental health research, we urge the end of the practice of solitary confinement for everyone - prisoners with mental health illness and those without," Weissman said. "Solitary confinement is not about physical protection of prisoners from each other or correctional officers. Rather, it is a means of punishment that fails to achieve any goals."
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