Sheriff Tom Dart: Solitary confinement should be eliminated everywhere

Recent criminal justice reform ended the use of solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons. Now a group of lawmakers, including Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is pushing to limit solitary confinement in federal prisons more broadly.

However, the realities of solitary confinement playing out in other correctional institutions across the country — including county jails, like the one I run in Cook County — remain unaddressed and misunderstood.

Whether termed solitary confinement, disciplinary segregation or something else, it is almost always the same thing and produces the same disturbing and, too often, grave consequences. Individuals are confined alone in roughly 7-by-11-foot concrete cells for up to 23 hours a day with little human contact and no access to natural light. For as few as 60 minutes a day, they are allowed out of their cells to pace about another concrete area no larger than a dog run. In some cases, it’s outdoors; in others, not. This punishment is meted out for reasons ranging from disobeying an officer’s order to violent assaults on staffers, and it can last from 24 hours to years. Most facilities make no accommodation for detainees suffering from severe mental illness.

And the damage solitary inflicts on people is indisputable. Years of research have demonstrated that the effects include mental illness, anger, despondency and self-harm; psychiatrist Stuart Grassian concluded that solitary can cause a specific psychiatric syndrome that includes hallucinations, panic attacks and paranoia.

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Columns,Feeds,Region: Chicago,City: Chicago,Opinion

via Commentary – Chicago Tribune

April 5, 2019 at 05:18PM

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