Solitary confinement is a practice used in prisons to detain prisoners that are making it unsafe for other inmates. There are many categories of solitary confinement. One is punitive disassociation in which the inmate has committed a crime within the prison and needs to be isolated from the rest of the population for up to thirty days (a trial is given). Another category is protective custody in which an inmate may feel threatened by another inmate and wishes to be separated from the rest of the population for safety reasons. The final category is administrative segregation, in this situation an inmate may be placed in solitary confinement for an indefinite period of time, based on the idea that they are a perceived threat to the prison; no trial is given. Administrative segregation has come into question as being cruel and unusual.
Administrative segregation is a practice in which the administration feels that a particular inmate may be a danger to the prison population. With administrative segregation the inmate is not informed as to why they are being placed within solitary confinement. With administrative segregation the inmate is placed in solitary for an indefinite period of time. This punishment is considered cruel and unusual due to the severe nature. According to Jack McCann the cell was tiny with no actual bed; they slept on plywood with a rubber pillow, with no windows and they had to sleep with their heads near the toilet or they would have water thrown on them. An inmate is put into administrative segregation without a concrete cause. Therefore probably an inmate might come to resent the system which holds him/her. In prisons I would assume there is an understanding that the facility will not harm the inmate. With this practice, emotional harm is being inflicted; inmates would resent this because the system is supposed to protect not harm.
This practice is viewed by inmates as a punishment. “You don't know what you're supposed to do to get out of there because there is nothing you can do,” said Andy Bruce, a prisoner (Jackson 1). This practice can make a prisoner think that there is no real hope for the future because they don't have any idea and for what reason they are being held. The practice of administrative segregation is suggested to be cruel and unusual for these reasons. It seems to inflict a pain that is not necessary. Administrative segregation is merely an ‘educated guess' that a prisoner will commit an offense while incarcerated. The warden has full discretion over the inmates. Therefore probably some inmates will try to be on their best behavior while in prison so as to avoid administrative segregation.
A prisoner named Jack McCann lived through administrative segregation. He wrote several poems while detained in administrative segregation, he wrote these to demonstrate the conditions of this punishment to stress this particular practice was cruel and unusual. One entitled “My Home is Hell,” depicts quite an image of what administrative segregation is like on a prisoner. “Men scream and yell within my hell But I'm a man alone,” implies that while he is alone he can hear others suffering as well ( Jackson 2). It implies that while he feels alone so that he can't do anything, he is suffering along with everyone else.
There is a completely different argument that is presented by the warden and why this practice is needed. Administrative segregation according to the warden is something that is needed in prisons so as to keep good order. Administrative segregation is full separation from fellow inmates based on the assumption that they may be a problem to the prison population itself (they are perceived as a threat). As described by Dr. Korn “I thought it was either them or us, and unless we could break them down psychologically and make them submissive they were unsafe to us and the community (Jackson 2).” Administrative segregation is used in order to weed out potential threats to the prison. According to the warden administrative segregation is merely a tool used to protect the rest of the prison from potential harm.
Dr. Fox (a psychologist) states that through administrative segregation it is designed to put a prisoner into that place where they have no resistance (with no self-identity). Putting a person into that frame of mind (in which they feel they have no hope) can lead to insanity and suicide; also how will this inmate react to the rest of the population when he is released? With a chance of insanity it is possible that a potential threat may turn into an actual threat when being reintroduced into the prison population. Putting a person into this situation I believe is not a humane way to treat anyone; regardless of a hunch that the warden may have the inmate may be a future threat.
To me administrative segregation is a cruel and unusual punishment. The purpose of administrative segregation is to keep good order within the prison; there are many factors to take into consideration when utilizing this particular safeguard, while breaking the inmates down they seem to make no mention to building them back up. If a punishment is cruel and unusual then it inflicts a greater pain than necessary. If it inflicts a greater pain than necessary then it is unconstitutional. Therefore if a punishment is cruel and unusual then it should be unconstitutional. The practice of administrative segregation is still legal. What happens to these men once they are placed within the confines of administrative segregation? Understandably the warden wants the prison to be place that is safe for the inmates: but at what cost?
- Brandy Woodruff