Solitary confinement is torture

Obama’s prison reforms do too little to change how we see the solitary confinement of prisoners.

by Alia Jeraj

As many as 100,000 individuals are held in solitary confinement in United States federal, state and local jurisdictions.
Solitary confinement is a punishment so egregious that the United Nations has stated any use of it for more than 15 days is torture. But in a number of states, the average time people are submitted to solitary confinement is between two and five years. 
President Barack Obama’s recent prison reforms include banning solitary confinement for juvenile offenders and for prisoners who have committed low-level infractions. He said these reforms will impact 10,000 prisoners.
While these are promising steps, they do nothing to change the situation of 90 percent of people who are currently in solitary confinement.
Prison abolitionist Angela Davis refers to solitary confinement as “this most barbarian form of punishment.” She goes on to argue that we can see the practice as “a microcosm of the whole system, solitary confinement within a prison.”
Though many consider Davis’ views to be radical, I think she makes a valid point. Prisons isolate people from society, offering limited visitation hours with family and friends. 
Although I do support the abolition of prisons, I fear we as a nation are far from even seriously entertaining the idea. I do think we are more than ready (and past due) to talk earnestly about solitary confinement, however. 
Though I applaud Obama for the reforms he has made, they require further action. It’s time to abolish solitary confinement in prisons. Perhaps then we can initiate further discourse on prison reforms.
Alia Jerajwelcomes comments at [email protected].