Take It From an Ex-Con: Solitary Confinement Is Cruel
California's striking inmates deserve our attention: Wilbert Rideau
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2013 12:49 PM CDT
   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – At last count, about 2,500 inmates in California were still taking part in a hunger strike that began on July 8. If corrections officials were smart, they'd pay careful attention to the inmates' complaints, writes Wilbert Rideau in the New York Times. The main one is that prisons are too quick to toss a prisoner into solitary confinement, sometimes for years at a stretch. "Isolating a human being for years in a barren cell the size of a small bathroom is the cruelest thing you can do to a person," writes Rideau. He should know: The felon-turned-journalist spent a total of 12 years in solitary himself as part of a 44-year manslaughter sentence.

The bigger picture is that inmates are frustrated by what they believe to be prison officials' "abuse of arbitrary power," he writes. Prisons could remedy the problem by setting up better channels of communication—and by applying more common sense to what constitutes a trip to solitary. Why should the rest of us care? "Every year men from California’s Pelican Bay and other supermax prisons around the nation are released directly from the vacuum of their cells into free society, to live and work among you and your loved ones." It's in our interest to make sure prison didn't make them crazy. Click for Rideau's full column.

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Showing 3 of 46 comments
jessepinkmen
Jul 18, 2013 9:07 AM CDT
jail isn't nice. more at 11.
DougMasters
Jul 18, 2013 2:30 AM CDT
You can not force rehabilitation or hope or desire onto people. You cannot simply say "remove solitary confinement from a prison system and prisoners will be less crazy when they get out" that makes no sense. I don't know if solitary has a point or not. But isn't it the prisoners responsibility to keep themselves out of it? Don't they have to want to be rehabilitated? I am not saying I think prisons are free of corruption. But if you remove the punishment of solitary confinement are we magically expecting prisoners are going to be better rehabilitated when hey leave?
Witzelsucht
Jul 18, 2013 2:23 AM CDT
Our land of freedom imprisons more people than any other country in the world at 716 per 100,000, which is two to three times greater than Central American countries, where the murder rate remains well above 10 times that of the USA (Wiki). Something is wrong with our system. Appropriate punishment would include restitution to victims. Criminals could work in prison industries to repay their victim an amount determined by the courts, including administration fees. Murderers and others might never leave prison, but would at least provide something for victimized families as well as become a source of income for the state rather than an expense. Victimless offenses, such as drug use or prostitution, would not be punished by incarceration. This system would meet demands for justice far better that our present revenge-based system.