From an editorial in the (Winston-Salem) Journal on Monday:
In America, we’ve long known that when punishment is required, it must fit the crime. So it’s disturbing to learn, as The Charlotte Observer reported last week, about seven inmates in the state prison system who have been kept in solitary confinement for over a decade each.
This is beyond punishment. It’s inhumane.
Inmates in solitary usually spend 22 to 24 hours a day in concrete cells smaller than parking spaces. Researchers have found that prolonged solitary confinement can exacerbate or even cause psychiatric problems. That can create a vicious cycle: Mental disorders make inmates more prone to commit offenses, which in turn makes them more likely to be thrown into solitary.
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Human rights advocates say such lengthy solitary confinement amounts to torture.
State officials told the Observer they’ve been working to reduce their use of solitary confinement as awareness grows about the dangerous psychological effects of isolating prisoners. Perhaps they need to speed up their efforts.
We realize that prison is no playground, nor are the people who wind up there toddlers. But asking that inmates be treated in a humane fashion isn’t asking that they be coddled. There are other effective forms of discipline.