A new study by Yale scholars found that by the summer of 2021, nearly 50,000 people in U.S. prisons were being held in solitary confinement for more than 22 hours per day for 15 or more consecutive days. The data comes from prisons across 34 states and from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Details: Out of the prisons surveyed, more than 6,000 people had been in confinement for over a year, and almost 1,000 people had been in confinement for over a decade.
- Solitary confinement rooms are the size of a parking space. Free time outside their cell is strictly limited.
- Ten of the prisons reported that artificial lighting stayed on in the cells at all times, and prisoners were not allowed to control the lighting.
- Six of the jurisdictions reported that prisoners held in solitary confinement were not allowed to interact with other people during out-of-cell time.
- Most jurisdictions allowed things such as televisions, writing supplies, puzzles and board games, but these could be confiscated at any time.
- The study also states that more than 1,000 people with “serious mental illness” are being held in confinement.
Expert opinion: Nils Melzer, a human rights expert for the United Nations, says that an excess of solitary confinement practices could compare to torture.
- He stated that in people with mental illness, solitary confinement could enhance psychological suffering.
- “This deliberate infliction of severe mental pain or suffering may well amount to psychological torture,” Melzer said.
A hopeful trend: The number of people in solitary confinement in U.S. prison systems is experiencing a downward trend.
- When the study began in 2014, between 80,000 to 100,000 people were being held in restrictive confinement, almost double the 2021 amount.