A report says an estimated 80,000 prisoners spend 23 hours a day ‘for decades’ in closed isolation units of prisons in the United States.
According to a report published by the National Public Radio on Sunday, there is growing evidence that the solitary confinement causes mental breakdown among the prisoners, who are sentenced to “even more than 30 years.”
The prisoners who have lived through the extreme, often uncertain isolation, have testified about suicidal depression, self-mutilation, hallucinations and other conditions, the NPR stated.
Robert King, a former American prisoner who served 29 years in solitary confinement at Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana, says the three-by-six-foot (0.9-by-1.8-meter) cell he spent time inside was a “tomb.”
“There was a slab of concrete that you slept on… and during the winter time you froze, and during the summer time you overheated,” King said.
The ex-prisoner also stated that while in prison he saw how the detention system and the solitary confinement changed the inmates as they became more withdrawn with time.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons has come under criticism over the detention system. It recently decided for the first time to assess its policies on solitary confinement.
It costs up to $60,000 a year to hold a prisoner in isolation in the United States. The amount is double to triple the cost of holding an inmate in a regular ward.
Solitary confinement increased in the 1980s as almost every US state built a so-called supermax for the allegedly ‘worst of the worst.’
Isolating inmates was initially practiced at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia in 1829.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with an estimated 716 prisoners per 100,000 people.