Buried Alive Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Torture in US prisons.
by Stephen Lendman
What America's Eighth Amendment and international law prohibit, US federal, state and local prisons permit.
Solitary Watch reports "news from a nation in lockdown" to bring America's widespread use of barbaric "solitary confinement and other forms of torture in U.S. prisons out of the shadows and into the light of the public square."
It calls the practice "one of the most pressing (unaddressed) domestic human rights issues in America today - and also one of the most invisible."
Many thousands are affected. More on that below. Supposedly solely for the "worst of the worst," it's used abusively as punishment without cause, despite no legitimate penological purpose.
"Today, inmates can be placed in complete isolation for months or years not only for violent acts but for possessing contraband, using drugs, ignoring orders, or using profanity."
Thousands are isolated for whatever reasons authorities choose. Some were for being gang members "based on information from other inmates who are rewarded for 'snitching,' " whether or not what they said was true.
Mentally ill inmates are punished. So are children needing "protection," gays, lesbians, and transsexuals, Muslim for praying to the wrong God, others for their political beliefs, or those reporting rape by prison officials and/or guards. "In Virginia, a dozen Rastafarian men have been in solitary for ten years because they refuse to cut their hair on religious grounds."
Long-term effects are profound. They include severe anxiety, panic, rage, loss of control, emotional breakdown, hallucinations, profound despair and hopelessness, regressive behavior, paranoia, self-mutiliation, suicidal thoughts, and other self-destructive behavior.
Over time, everyone's vulnerable to emotional breakdown and uncontrolled behavior. Long-term confinement in windowless cells 23 hour a day causes madness. Even the strongest-willed break.
Inmates have little or no human contact. They're denied visits, phone calls, television, reading material, art supplies, and other common amenities most people take for granted.
Many remain isolated for years. In Louisiana, two aging prisoners have endured solitary confinement for four decades. It's astonishing how anyone could withstand it and stay alive. In fact, they're among the living dead.
Precise numbers of isolated prisoners aren't known. Little data's published. Many states don't collect it. However, at any time, many thousands are affected. Over 25,000 supermax inmates endure long-term isolation under constant closed-circuit TV surveillance.
Many thousands more also endure it in federal, state, and local Secure Housing Units, Restricted Housing Units, Special Management Units, and other solitary conditions with little or no outside contact.