When I used to work at a soup kitchen in the Bronx, the woman who managed the front was a former prison guard. She talked in commands, even to us, because it had been engrained into her character. On the off chance that we had a break from serving the homeless, she would recount some of her experiences. When she spoke about how the prisoners were treated and the decay of the facilities it was never with sympathy. It was with an apathetic, brunt portrayal of reality, with nothing to hide or sugar-coat. The term ‘solitary,’ meant nothing to her, it was one of many means of punishment. We all knew what it was and what it meant, yet referred to it casually as if it was a necessary evil. After having spent so much time working on this campaign, I wish I could go back and show her how important it is to not feel powerless about these issues.
I imagine that this is the perspective taken by most prison guards, who feel as if prison reform is an issue far beyond their control, and more importantly beyond their paygrade. Solitary confinement is seen by many as the ‘least torturous,’ means of inmate control, which is ironic. Mental symptoms are much harder to recognize than external symptoms, which is why the real effects of solitary are still a point of contention. Yet when reviewing the legitimacy of the research conducted, it becomes apparent how irreproducible and problematic most research is. For what rare legitimate research there was, there is in fact a clear correlation between solitary confinement and the need for psychiatric treatment. The use of prolonged solitary confinement is proven to cause harmful mental effects such as PTSD.
Prison corporations dismiss these truths because it does not fit their narrative, and actively dissuade people from uncovering real research by funding their own illegitimate versions. Therefore, it is our duty to combat this attempt at censorship by spreading the awareness ourselves. Abolishing solitary confinement will not happen so long as we keep treating it apathetically, it takes action to make a change. With enough effort, we can change the mentality of solitary being a necessity and take the human rights of prisoners into more consideration.