- author: Annamaria Grabowski
PREVENT CHILDREN FROM SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
SOLITARY CONFINEMENT ISNO PLACE FOR CHILDREN
The United States is one of the only countries* in the world that allows children under 18 to be sentenced to life without parole. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International report that more than 2,000 inmates are currently serving life without parole in the United States for crimes committed when they were juveniles; in the rest of the world, there are only 12 juveniles serving the same sentence, according to figures reported to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Human Rights Watch and the ACLU estimate that in 2011, more than 95,000 young people under age 18 were held in prisons and jails. A significant number of these facilities use solitary confinement, for days, weeks, months, or even years, to punish, protect, house, or treat some of the young people held there.
The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), which was first passed in 1974 and most recently reauthorized in 2002, provides grants to States for juvenile crime prevention and intervention programs. To be eligible for these funds, States must comply with four “core protections” for youth in the justice system, including jail removal and sight and sound separationto protect children from contact with adult inmates. But because of a loophole in the law, children charged in the adult criminal system are excluded from these two protections.
Here are just 5 of the essential reasons to keep children out of adult jails and Solitary Confinement
( colloquially referred as "the hotbox", "the hole", "lockdown", "punk city", "SCU" (Solitary Confinement Unit), "AdSeg" (Administrative Segregation), the "SHU" an acronym for "special housing unit" or "security housing unit", or "the pound"; and in British English as "the block”)
1. Children who are held in adult jails are at high risk of being sexually and physically assaulted. In 2006, for example, 13% the victims of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence in jails were under 18— even though only 1% of jail inmates were juveniles (Just published:http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/06/06/3-Ohio-juvenile-detention-centers-rank-top-nationally-for-sexual-assaults.html).
2. Children have the highest suicide rate of all inmates in jails.
Youth under 18 held in adult jails are much more likely to commit suicide compared to non-incarcerated youth and compared to youth held in juvenile detention facilities. Suicides in jails are disproportionately concentrated in the first few days of incarceration, so even children who are jailed for relatively short periods of time are at high risk.
3. Children in adult jails are denied access to education
Most incarcerated youth have not completed high school, yet 40% of jails provide no educational services. Nine out of 10 jails provide no special education services.
4. Many children are punished before being tried.
According to research commissioned by the Campaign for Youth Justice, two out of three juveniles charged as adults were detained pre-trial in an adult jail, for weeks or even months in many cases. Over a third of these defendants were charged with non-violent offenses. Most decisions to charge a child as an adult were made by prosecutors or legislators, not by judges.
5. Transferring children to the adult criminal system does not reduce crime.
In a systematic review of scientific evidence, the Task Force on Community Preventive Services found that transferring juveniles to the adult criminal justice system increased, not decreased, rates of violence among transferred youth..
Human Right Watch published“Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States” (Author: Ian Kysel) and documented the widespread use of solitary confinement for children or youth under the age of 18 in prisons and jails in 19 states.
Each day in 2008, therewere more than 11,300 children under 18 being held in the nation’s adult prisons and jail.
Dr. Grassian is a Board Certified Psychiatrist who was on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School for over twenty-five years. He has had extensive experience in evaluating the psychiatric effects of solitary confinement,
His observations and conclusions regarding this issue have been cited in a number of federal court decisions.
Solitary confinement—that is the confinement of a prisoner alone in a cell for all, or nearly all, of the day with minimal environmental stimulation and minimal opportunity for social interaction—can cause severe psychiatric harm. It has indeed long been known that severe restriction of environmental and social stimulation has a profoundly deleterious effect on mental functioning
The United States was actually the world leader in introducing prolonged incarceration, and solitary confinement, as a means of dealing with criminal behavior. The “penitentiary system” began in the United States, first in Philadelphia, in the early nineteenth century, a product of a spirit of great social optimism about the possibility of rehabilitation of individuals with socially deviant behavior.
This system, originally labeled as the “Philadelphia System,” involved almost exclusive reliance upon solitary confinement as a means of incarceration and also became an the predominant mode of incarceration, both for post conviction and also for pretrial detainees, in the several European prison systems which emulated the American model
The results were, in fact, catastrophic. The incidence of mental disturbances among prisoners so detained, and the severity of such disturbances, was so great that the system fell into disfavor and was ultimately abandoned. During this process a major body of clinical literature developed which documented the psychiatric disturbances created by such stringent conditions of confinement.
The paradigmatic psychiatric disturbance was an agitated confusional state which, in more severe cases, had the characteristics of a florid delirium, characterized by severe confusional, paranoid, and hallucinatory features, and also by intense agitation and random, impulsive, often self-directed violence
Such disturbances were often observed in individuals who had no prior history of any mental illness.
In addition, solitary confinement often resulted in severe exacerbation of a previously existing mental condition. Even among inmates who did not develop overt psychiatric illness as a result of solitary confinement, such confinement almost inevitably imposed significant psychological pain during the period of isolated confinement and often significantly impaired the inmate’s capacity to adapt successfully to the broader prison environment.
It is both tragic and highly disturbing that the lessons of the nineteenth century experience with solitary confinement are today being so completely ignored by those responsible for addressing the housing and the mental health needs in the prison setting. For, indeed, the psychiatric harm caused by solitary confinement had become exceedingly apparent well over one hundred years ago.
Indeed, by 1890, with In re Medley, the United States Supreme Court explicitly recognized the massive psychiatric harm caused by solitary confinement:
This matter of solitary confinement is not . . . a mere unimportant regulation as to the safe-keeping of the prisoner-experience [with the penitentiary system of solitary confinement] demonstrated that there were serious objections to it. A considerable number of the prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others, still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community.
Indeed even a few days of solitary confinement will predictably shift the electroencephalogram (EEG) pattern toward an abnormal pattern characteristic of stupor and delirium.
This fact is not surprising. Most individuals have at one time or another experienced, at least briefly, the effects of intense monotony and inadequate environmental stimulation. After even a relatively brief period of time in such a situation an individual is likely to descend into a mental torpor or “fog,” in which alertness, attention, and concentration all become impaired. In such a state, after a time, the individual becomes increasingly incapable of processing external stimuli, and often becomes “hyperresponsive” to such stimulation. For example, a sudden noise or the flashing of a light jars the individual from his stupor and becomes intensely unpleasant. Over time the very absence of stimulation causes whatever stimulation is available to become noxious and irritating. Individuals in such a stupor tend to avoid any stimulation, and withdraw progressively into themselves and their own mental fog. An adequate state of responsiveness to the environment requires both the ability to achieve and maintain an attentional set and the ability to shift attention. The impairment of alertness and concentration in solitary confinement leads to two related abnormalities: the inability to focus, and the inability to shift attention. The inability to focus (to achieve and maintain attention) is experienced as a kind of dissociative stupor—a mental “fog” in which the individual cannot focus attention, and cannot, for example, grasp or recall when he attempts to read or to think.
The inability to shift attention results in a kind of “tunnel vision” in which the individual’s attention becomes stuck, almost always on something intensely unpleasant, and in which he cannot stop thinking about that matter; instead, he becomes obsessively fixated upon it. These obsessional preoccupations are especially troubling. Individuals in solitary confinement easily become preoccupied with some thought, some perceived slight or irritation, some sound or smell coming from a neighboring cell, or, perhaps most commonly, by some bodily sensation. Tortured by it, such individuals are unable to stop dwelling on it. In solitary confinement ordinary stimuli become intensely unpleasant and small irritations become maddening. Individuals in such confinement brood upon normally.
Solitary Confinement Can Cause a Specific Psychiatric Syndrome During the course of my involvement as an expert I have had the opportunity to evaluate the psychiatric effects of solitary confinement in well over two hundred prisoners in various state and federal penitentiaries. I have observed that, for many of the inmates so housed, incarceration in solitary caused either severe exacerbation or recurrence of preexisting illness, or the appearance of an acute mental illness in individuals who had previously been free of any such illness. I became aware of the particular toxicity of solitary confinement when I first had the opportunity to evaluate prisoners in solitary confinement as a result of my involvement in a class action lawsuit in Massachusetts, which challenged conditions in solitary confinement at the maximum security state penitentiary in Walpole, Massachusetts. The clinical observations I made in the course of my involvement in that lawsuit, coupled with my research into the medical literature concerning this issue, have formed the basis of two articles I have since published on this topic in peer-reviewed journals.My subsequent professional experience has included observations of of similar phenomena in many other solitary confinement settings. When I initially agreed to evaluate the Walpole prisoners I had not yet reviewed the literature on the psychiatric effects of solitary confinement and I was somewhat skeptical; I expected that inmates would feign illness and exaggerate whatever psychiatric symptomatology they suffered. I discovered, however, something very different. Contrary to my expectations, the prisoners appeared to be extremely defensive about the psychiatric problems they were suffering in Special Housing Unit (SHU); they tended to rationalize away their symptoms, avoid talking about them, or deny or distort their existence all in an apparent effort to minimize the significance of their reactions to isolation. Numerous interviews began with statements such as “solitary doesn’t bother me” or “some of the guys can’t take it—not me,” or even with the mention of a symptom and a simultaneous denial of its significance: “As soon as I got in I started cutting my wrists. I figured it was the only way to get out of here As these interviews progressed the facile accounts gave way to descriptions of experiences that were very worrisome. For example, one inmate was unable to describe the events of the several days surrounding his wrist-slashing, nor could he describe his thoughts or feelings at the time. Similarly, the prisoner who said he could “take it” eventually came to describe panic, fears of suffocation, and paranoid distortions which he suffered while in isolation. Moreover,
Dr. Stuart Grassian wrote in Psychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement:
I. Specific Psychiatric Syndrome Associated with Solitary Confinement (selection)
a) Hyperresponsivity to External Stimuli: More than half the prisoners reported a progressive inability to tolerate ordinary stimuli. For example, “You get sensitive to noise, the plumbing system. Someone in the tier above me pushes the button on the faucet . . . It’s too loud, gets on your nerves. I can’t stand it. I start to holler.”
b) Perceptual Distortions, Illusions, and Hallucinations: Almost a third of the prisoners described hearing voices, often in whispers and often saying frightening things to them. There were also reports of noises taking on increasing meaning and frightening significance. For example, “I hear noises, can’t identify them—starts to sound like sticks beating men, but I’m pretty sure no one is being beaten . . . I’m not sure.” These perceptual changes at times became more complex and personalized:They come by with four trays; the first has big pancakes. I think I am going to get them. Then someone comes up and gives me tiny ones—they get real small, like silver dollars. I seem to see movements, real fast motions in front of me. Then seems like they are doing things behind your back, can’t quite see them. Did someone just hit me? I dwell on it for hours.
c) Panic Attacks: Well over half the inmates interviewed described severe panic attacks while in SHU.
d) Difficulties with Thinking, Concentration, and Memory: One prisoner described his experience, “I can’t concentrate, can’t read . . . Your mind’s narcotized. Sometimes I can’t grasp words in my mind that I know. Get stuck, have to think of another word. Memory’s going. You feel like you are losing something you might not get back.” In some cases this problem was far more severe, leading to acute psychotic, confusional states. One prisoner had slashed his wrists during such a state and his confusion and disorientation had actually been noted in his medical record.
e) Intrusive Obsessional Thoughts: Emergence of Primitive Aggressive Ruminations: Almost half the prisoners reported the emergence of primitive aggressive fantasies of revenge, torture, and mutilation of the prison guards. In each case the fantasies were described as entirely unwelcome, frightening, and uncontrollable. For example, one prisoner recounted I try to sleep sixteen hours a day, block out my thoughts; muscles tense, think of torturing and killing the guards; lasts a couple of hours. I can’t stop it. Bothers me. Have to keep control. This makes me think I’m flipping my mind . . . I get panicky, thoughts come back—pictured throwing a guard in lime—eats away at his skin, his flesh—torture him—try to block it out, but I can’t; ((in the '50s, Donald O. Hebb, a professor of psychology at Montreal's McGill University, set out to study how sensory isolation affects human cognition: "The subjects had little control over the content of their visions; one man could see nothing but dogs, another nothing but eyeglasses of various types.")).
f) Overt Paranoia:Almost half the prisoners interviewed reported paranoid and persecutory fears. Some of these persecutory fears were short of overt psychotic disorganization. For example, one prisoner recalled “sometimes I get paranoid—think they meant something else. Like a remark about Italians. Dwell on it for hours. Get frantic. Like when they push buttons on the sink. Think they did it just to annoy me.” In other cases this paranoia deteriorated into overt psychosis: Spaced out. Hear singing, people’s voices, ‘Cut your wrists and go to Bridgewater and the Celtics are playing tonight.’ I doubt myself. Is it real? . . . I suspect they are putting drugs in my food, they are putting drugs in my cell . . . The Reverend, the priest, even you, you’re all in cahoots in the Scared Straight Program.
g) Problems with Impulse Control: Slightly less than half of the prisoners reported episodes of loss of impulse control with random violence: “I snap off the handle over absolutely nothing. Have torn up mail and pictures, throw things around. Try to control it. Know it only hurts myself.” Several of these prisoners reported impulsive self-mutilation; “I cut my wrists many times in isolation. Now it seems crazy. But every time I did it, I wasn’t thinking—lost control—cut myself without knowing what I was doing.”
II. This Syndrome has the Characteristics of an Acute Organic Brain Syndrome—A Delirium
These dramatic symptoms appeared to form a discret syndrome—that is, a constellation of symptoms occurring together and with a characteristic course over time, thus suggestive of a discreet illness. Moreover, this syndrome was strikingly unique; some of the symptoms described above are found in virtually no other psychiatric illness. The characteristic acute dissociative, confusional psychoses are a rare phenomenon in psychiatry. Similarly, cases of random, impulsive violence in the context of such confusional state is exceedingly rare. But the most unique symptoms in this cluster are the striking and dramatically extensive perceptual disturbances experienced by the isolated person. Indeed, these disturbances are almost pathognomonic of the syndrome, meaning they are symptoms virtually found nowhere else.
For example, loss of perceptual constancy (objects becoming larger and smaller, seeming to “melt” or change form, sounds becoming louder and softer, etc.) is very rare and, when found, is far more commonly associated with neurological illness (especially seizure disorders and brain tumors affecting sensory integration areas of the brain) than with primary psychiatric illness.
Thus, the fact that all of these quite unusual symptoms ran together in the same syndrome was itself a clear confirmation of the distinct nature of this syndrome. While this syndrome is strikingly atypical for the functional psychiatric illnesses, it is quite characteristic of an acute organic brain syndrome: delirium, a syndrome characterized by a decreased level of alertness and EEG abnormalities; by the same perceptual and cognitive disturbances, fearfulness, paranoia, and agitation; and random, impulsive, and self destructive behavior which I observed in the Walpole population.
Moreover, delirium is a syndrome which is known to result from the type of conditions, including restricted environmental stimulation, which are characteristic of solitary confinement. Even the EEG abnormalities characteristic of delirium have been observed in individuals exposed to conditions of sensory deprivation. By now the potentially catastrophic effects of restricted environmental stimulation have been the subject of a voluminous medical literature; annual international symposia are being held on the subject, and the issue has even found its way into the popular media. The literature is summarized in the appendices to this statement.
An eye-opening actual documentation:26.06.2014„The I Files“
“Capping a year of reporting about teens held in solitary confinement, The Center for Investigative Reporting is releasing our documentary "Alone," which can now be seen on our YouTube channel, This follows stories we've done in print, for broadcast on the PBS NewsHour, as part of CIR's new "Reveal" radio show, and in an animation ("The Box") and graphic novel. With the publication or broadcast of each version of our reporting, we have seen the issue of teenage solitary confinement become part of a growing national debate. In May, after more than a year of lobbying by youth advocates, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called on states to end the excessive use of solitary confinement on juvenile inmates. CIR began investigating the solitary confinement of teenagers in prisons, jails and juvenile halls across the U.S. in March 2013. Juvenile justice experts had been pressing the Department of Justice to flex its muscle on behalf of young inmates, to no avail. Holder's shop declined all interview requests by CIR. Our reporting quickly zeroed in on Rikers Island, the massive jail complex in New York City, where last year about a quarter of juvenile inmates were held in isolation for 23 hours a day. We spent almost a year requesting to see Rikers' teen solitary units, but the city's Department of Correction denied them, as did officials at Cook County jail in Chicago and five county jails in Florida. We figured out quickly that juvenile solitary was an often secretive practice, largely unregulated and rampant in most states. Our investigation early on pointed to thousands of American teenagers held in solitary every day. We wanted to show what that looked like and how it affected kids. We talked to criminal justice experts in California who said virtually every juvenile hall in the state used some form of prolonged isolation. Santa Cruz Chief Probation Officer Fernando Giraldo, and Sara Ryan, the hall's superintendent, allowed us to film inside their facility for five days, unescorted, and talk to anyone we wanted. Our resulting documentary, "Alone,"( produced Daffodil Altan) toggles between New York City and Santa Cruz, where young people tell their own stories of isolation and how the justice system can do better. Now that Holder has said he wants to end excessive solitary for youth, we'll keep watching for changes. In the meantime, watch "Alone" and see for yourself what it's like for kids in isolation and how one facility is trying to keep them out….”
Mag. Dr. Annamaria Grabowski, Scientist
REFERENCES & GREAT “THANK YOU”, too:
The War on Kids: The Definitive Documentary on the Failure of the Public Education
Link auf YouTube: http://youtu.be/i-tAQ56-gaA
http://youtu.be/KS7hCZ8IiMc SHANE BAUER
http://mojo.ly/PbBTMEMOTHER JONES Solitary Confinement Is The Same In Iran, Is The Same In America, Is The Same Anywhere /http://www.prisonphotography.org/tag/iran/
http://solitarywatch.com/Jean Casella and James Ridgeway
https://de.images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=A9mSs22.8FVUvQkArkYzCQx.;_ylu=X3oDMTB1NHEyMmtrBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2lyMgR2dGlkA1VJREVDMDFfMQ--?_adv_prop=image&fr=slv1-yie9&va=STEVE+LISS STEVE LISS / www.solitarywatch.com
HERE IS HOPE: 23.10.2014http://www.youtu.be/zfAHArDxP1w
7x9 performance against solitary confinementheld on the Princeton University campus
http://www.ozarksfirst.com/story/d/story/state-urges-juvenile-detention-to-stop-using-wrap/19266/RvGj-XafJ0a5HRRXHo1N6Q Photos obtained via Freedom of Information Act