The Torture Of Isolation

James Ridgeway argues against the absurd over-use of solitary confinement in America's jails:

Adam Cohen chimes in:

Rather than reserving solitary confinement for the most vicious, unrepentant criminals, American prisons dole it out in heaping portions – and often for no good reason. Some inmates are put in solitary confinement for repeated violations of minor prison rules. There was a report at the congressional hearing of a prisoner who was caught with 17 packs of cigarettes and given 15 days for each pack, or eight months. Worse still: many inmates are put in solitary not because they have done anything wrong, but for their own protection. This includes victims of in-prison attacks and sexual assaults, gay inmates, and children.

Human beings are social animals. To deprive someone of any human contact for long stretches of time does seem to me to be a form of torture – as psychologically disturbing as sleep deprivation, although not as punishing. I don't believe it should be abandoned tout court. In some rare circumstances, it may well be appropriate. But routine? As unthinkable to me as keeping prisoners in effective temperatures above 120.