Solitary, also known as solitary confinement, refers to the solitary confinement of an individual, usually a prisoner, who has been assigned such a status by the law. Solitary confinement is sometimes used as a punishment, but more often it is given to a convicted criminal for reasons of protection, deterrence, or rehabilitation. While it may seem like an oxymoron, in many cases, it is perfectly legitimate for a judge or jury to expect that the criminal will remain alone in order to avoid the negative influence that society would otherwise have on him/her.
A solitary, or eremitic, individual typically lives alone. Solitary confinement has a specific role in the criminal justice system as well. As part of the investigative process before a prisoner is placed in solitary confinement, detectives ask questions about prior criminal offenses. Solitary confinement can also be a necessary procedure following a conviction, after a lawyer pleads the not guilty plea of a client. Solitary confinement plays a major role in many religions, sects, and groups within a broad range of belief systems.
In the United States, solitary confinement varies from state to state. In many states, the definition of solitary confinement is the inability to associate with other prisoners, except for the security of the facility. Many states refer to solitary confinement as "isolative living" imprisonment. In Canada, a solitary confinement sentence is rare. Most solitary confinement sentences in the United States are of brief duration ranging from three days to a few weeks.
The practice of solitary confinement is not limited to the incarcerated. It is used in correctional, penal and mental health facilities throughout the country. Some prisons in the U.S. offer inmates the option of'solitaire treatment', whereby they serve time either individually or in small groups. Inmates who participate in this program report significantly lower levels of psychological stress and physical pain. Others who participate in this program say that while they are still confined to their cells, they are afforded more freedom than in the traditional prison environment.
Some advocates argue against the use of solitary confinement as punishment, arguing that it can lead to self-pity, which may promote the development of dangerous behavior. Others say that prolonged isolation can increase a prisoner's vulnerability to diseases and germs. Former prisoner and author Michelle Smith says that solitary confinement can have a demoralizing effect on inmates, especially if they do not see any positive change in their circumstances. "People in solitary feel there is no hope for change and have a very bleak outlook on the future. They see little reason to be optimistic about the condition of their lives in solitary. If nothing is done to break the cycle of imprisonment, the inmates may become hardened and more prone to violent and criminal behaviors."
If you or someone you know need help, contact a prison expert immediately. If you or someone you know needs help in a correctional facility, contact Criminal Justice Advocate Service (CJAS). CJAS can provide the necessary assistance for those who are suffering from abuse, neglect, or other serious issues that may require custody of one another but cannot be handled within the corrections system. Those who are incarcerated in state or federal facilities such as prisons, maximum-security penitentiaries, or juvenile centers may also contact CJAS for resources, information, and help in solitary confinement. Anyone who needs more information about the dangers of solitary confinement should visit the Online Corrective Training web site today.