The aim of this essay is to give an insight into the controversial topic of solitary confinement in the United States, and one which has had an increasing amount of media attention in recent years. This study will examine a specific prison, ADX Florence, which uses solitary confinement. In doing so, it will look at the history behind solitary confinement, as well as the legal aspects. Additionally the essay will look at a recent case revolving around solitary confinement, examining the psychological impacts on the prisoner, and also highlighting some of the discrepancies and complications within the US criminal justice system. For the purpose of this essay, ‘humane’ will be defined as ‘the tenderness, compassion, and sympathy for people and animals, especially for the suffering or distressed.’
The US criminal justice system is arguably one of the most controversial in the world. This is not because of its legislature or legal process, but due to the punitive practices used, in one of the worlds leading countries. The dictionary defines solitary confinement as the confinement of a prisoner in a cell or other place in which he or she is completely isolated from others. In the US, very few prisons use the term ‘solitary confinement’ and instead refer to other terms such as ‘administrative segregation’, ‘isolation’ or ‘permanent lockdown’ and many others, usually depending on the state. In the US, solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment for over 180 years, however the use has become widespread within the last 40 years. Saying this, not all states use solitary confinement, yet still at least 38 states use some form of solitary confinement within their prison system. Due to these state-by-state variances, there is no set figure on how many people are currently in solitary confinement. In an official document by the US Department of Justice, it states that super-max prisons across America house over 20,000. However, this figure only includes those in solitary within super-max prisons, not accounting for those in solitary within restrictive housing units or other isolation cells situated at other prisons across the US.