Solitary confinement

Solitary confinement

Solitary confinement is a special form of imprisonment in which a prisoner is isolated from any human contact, though often with the exception of members of prison staff. It is sometimes employed as a form of punishment beyond incarceration for a prisoner, and has been cited as an additional measure of protection from the criminal or is given for violations of prison regulations. It is also used as a form of protective custody and to implement a suicide watch.

Solitary confinement is colloquially referred to in American English as the 'hotbox', the 'hole', 'lockdown', 'AdSeg' (Administrative Segregation), the 'SHU' (pronounced 'shoe')—an acronym for security housing unit, or the 'pound'; and in British English as the 'block' or the 'cooler'.[1][2] In Canada they are known as a Special Handling Unit.



The practice is used when a prisoner is considered dangerous to oneself or to others, is suspected of organizing or being engaged in illegal activities outside of the prison, or, in the case of a prisoner such as a pedophile or witness, is at a high risk of being harmed by another inmate. The latter example is a form of protective custody.

Solitary Confinement in the United States

In the US Federal Prison system, solitary confinement is known as the Special Housing Unit (SHU),[3] pronounced /ˈʃ/. California's prison system also uses the abbreviation SHU, but it stands for Security Housing Units.[4] In other states, it is known as the Special Management Unit (SMU).[5]

Current estimates of the number of inmates held in solitary confinement are difficult to determine, though generally the minimum held at any given time has been determined to be 20,000.[6]


It is considered by critics[7] to be a form of psychological torture[8] when the period of confinement is longer than a few weeks or is continued indefinitely.[9]

Opponents of solitary confinement hold that it is a form of cruel and unusual punishment[10] and torture[11] because the lack of human contact, and the sensory deprivation that often go with solitary confinement, can have a severe negative impact on a prisoner's mental state[12] that may lead to certain mental illnesses such as depression, permanent or semi-permanent changes to brain physiology,[13] an existential crisis,[14][15][16][17] and death.[11]

Negative psychological effects have been documented,[18] leading one judge in a 2001 suit to rule that “[Solitary confinement] units are virtual incubators of psychoses—seeding illness in otherwise healthy inmates and exacerbating illness in those already suffering from mental infirmities.”[19]

In 2006, the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America, chaired by John Joseph Gibbons and Nicholas Katzenbach found that: "The increasing use of high-security segregation is counter-productive, often causing violence inside facilities and contributing to recidivism after release."[20]

Solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure for prisoners in Europe was largely reduced or eliminated during the twentieth century.[8] In 2004, only 40 out of 75,000 inmates held in England and Wales were placed in solitary confinement cells.[21]

See also

Nation specific:


  1. ^ Published: 4:25PM BST 17 Jun 2009 (17 June 2009). "Army captain was real life 'Cooler King' from The Great Escape". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 April 2010. 
  2. ^ "UK | Wales | North West Wales | Cooler King recalls Great Escape". BBC News. 16 March 2004. Retrieved 16 April 2010. 
  3. ^ Institution Supplement – Visiting Regulations, USP McCreary (from the Bureau of Prisons, US Department of Justice website. Accessed 2008 May 1.)
  4. ^ Visitors, State Prison, Corcoran (CSP-COR) (from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation website. Accessed 2008 May 1.)
  5. ^ "An Insane Asylum Disguised as an SMU". Solitary Watch. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  6. ^ Naday, A., Freilich, J. & Mellow, Jeff. (2008), The Elusive Data on Supermax Confinement, The Prison Journal 88, 69.
  7. ^ Elizabeth Vasiliades (21 January 2005). "Solitary Confinement and International Human Rights". American University International Law Review. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Gawande, Atul (7 January 2009). "Is long-term solitary confinement torture?". The New Yorker. Retrieved 16 April 2010. 
  9. ^ Tracy Hresko url= 2006). "In the Cellars of the Hollow Men". Pace International Law Review. 
  10. ^ Trend toward solitary confinement worries experts – Tyre, Peg; US News, 1998 9 January
  11. ^ a b "Survivors of Solitary Confinement". National Radio Project: Making Contact. 3 June 2009. No. 22, season 12. Direct link to audio file.
  12. ^ Solitary Confinement Torture In The US – Kerness, Bonnie; National Coordinator of the 'National Campaign to Stop Control Unit Prisons', 1998
  13. ^ Stuart Grassian Psychiatric effects of solitary confinement (redacted, non-institution and non-inmate specific version of a declaration submitted in September 1993 in Madrid v. Gomez, 889F.Supp.1146. California, USA. Retrieved 18 June 2008.
  14. ^ Grassian Psychopathological effects of solitary confinement American Journal of Psychiatry Online 1983; 140: 1450–1454
  15. ^ Haney Mental Health Issues in Long-Term Solitary and "Supermax" Confinement, Crime Delinquency. 2003; 49: 124–156
  16. ^ Karen Franklin Segregation Psychosis (from the author's private website, with further references. Retrieved 18 June 2008.
  17. ^ Harold I. Schwartz, Death Row Syndrome and Demoralization: Psychiatric Means to Social Policy Ends J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 33:2:153-155 (2005)
  18. ^ "Psychological Effects of Solitary Confinement". Solitary Watch. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  19. ^ Ruiz v Johnson, 154 F.Supp.2d 975 (S.D.Tex.2001)
  20. ^ "Confronting Confinement: A Report of The Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons". The Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons. Retrieved 18 June 2011. .
  21. ^ Tapley, Lance. "The Worst of the Worst: Supermax Torture in America". Boston Review. Retrieved 18 December 2010. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем написать реферат

Look at other dictionaries:

  • solitary confinement — n. Imprisoning someone alone in an isolated cell, without contact with fellow prisoners or without any human contact at all, even from prison employees. The Essential Law Dictionary. Sphinx Publishing, An imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. Amy Hackney… …   Law dictionary

  • solitary confinement — solitary con finement n [U] a punishment in which a prisoner is kept alone and is not allowed to see anyone else in solitary confinement ▪ He spent more than half his time in prison in solitary confinement …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • solitary confinement — n. confinement of a prisoner in isolation from all other prisoners, often in a dungeonlike cell: a form of extra punishment for misconduct …   English World dictionary

  • solitary confinement — ► NOUN ▪ the isolation of a prisoner in a separate cell as a punishment …   English terms dictionary

  • Solitary Confinement — Infobox Album Name = Solitary Confinement Type = studio Artist = Leæther Strip Released = 1992 Recorded = Genre = Electronica Length = Label = Zoth Ommog Producer = Reviews = Last album = Science for the Satanic Citizen (1992) This album =… …   Wikipedia

  • solitary confinement — n. 1) to put smb. into solitary confinement 2) in solitary confinement * * * in to put smb. into solitary confinement …   Combinatory dictionary

  • solitary confinement — N UNCOUNT: usu in N A prisoner who is in solitary confinement is being kept alone away from all other prisoners, usually as a punishment. Last night he was being held in solitary confinement in Douglas jail …   English dictionary

  • solitary confinement — solitary con finement noun uncount a punishment in which a prisoner is kept alone, separate from other prisoners …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • solitary confinement — noun confinement of a prisoner in isolation from other prisoners he was held in solitary • Syn: ↑solitary • Hypernyms: ↑confinement …   Useful english dictionary

  • solitary confinement — In a general sense, the separate confinement of a prisoner, with only occasional access of any other person, and that only at the discretion of the jailer. In a stricter sense, the complete isolation of a prisoner from all human society, and his… …   Black's law dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”