Solitary confinement can adversely affect prisoners’ mental health, finds report

Solitary confinement can adversely affect prisoners’ mental health, finds report

Keeping prisoners in solitary confinement can cause irreparable damage to their mental health, investigators from the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General have found. In their report titled “Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Use of Restrictive Housing for Inmates with Mental Illness,” the investigators revealed how prisoners, including those who are mentally ill, are living alone in their cells for prolonged periods in contravention of the federal policy.

The report, released on July 12, 2017, detailed the existing practice of solitary confinement despite the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) denying its practice. In fact, some federal employees and former top officials describe that certain cases dealt with under the current system are similar in nature to that of solitary confinement. Experts maintain that its effects can result in worsening of emotional disorders of prisoners living with mental health problems.

Changing stance for the mentally ill

Considering that the problem has been in existence for a number of years, the BOP in 2014 designed and executed regulations aimed at amelioration of mentally ill inmates subjected to damaging policies like “restrictive housing.” However, the problem persisted due to a shortage of the necessary number of medical personnel for treating such cases. In addition to this the lackadaisical approach of BOP officials in keeping updated records of prisoners with mental illness made it difficult to discern the exact number of mentally ill confined alone in their cells, the report found.

A request for a change to the BOP policies resulted in the agency consenting to modify many of its incumbent policies on restrictive housing and the emotionally distraught, including putting a cap on the maximum time one can be kept in isolation, improved documentation of such cases and recruiting an increased number of medical personnel.

According to the report, as many as 9,749 prisoners, equivalent to about 7 percent of the total inmate population, were living in isolation in June 2016. There are three kinds of restrictive housing in place — “special housing units” at 111 prisons, “special management units” at two maximum-security prisons in Pennsylvania and the “Supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado.

The investigators focused their attention on Pennsylvania’s Lewisburg and Allenwood prisons where they found that mentally ill inmates had been housed for nearly 29 months at a stretch, mostly for non-disciplinarian reasons. Reportedly, inmates at one of the prisons had been confined to more than 22 hours each day with most not allowed to engage in recreation activities with other inmates. Experts say that if a person is not allowed to speak to anybody, it is a form of torture.

The report states that discussions with prison officials at eight state corrections departments revealed that while three state prisons limited restricted housing to a month, three others stopped keeping the seriously mentally disoriented in restrictive housing at all.

Seeking recovery

Prior studies have stressed on how the mentally distressed have to wait for prolonged periods before they have access to necessary treatment. It is important to understand that the mentally ill must be treated in time to prevent their conditions from becoming worse. Experts at Sovereign Health not only help people get rid of various lingering mental illnesses but also support them during the rehabilitation process. You may call our 24/7 helpline number 866-973-7164 to know our mental health rehabilitation centers in California offering comprehensive treatment. You may also get in touch with our online representatives for more information about our mental health facilities in California.

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