The Long-Term Effects of Isolation or Solitary Confinement


The Long-Term Effects of Isolation or Solitary Confinement

The use of solitary confinement or isolation in prisons continues to increase in various countries such as the U.S. Correctional officers in these facilities responded that solitary confinement is a tool to prevent harm to others. However, isolation also increases the risks of suicide, drugs, and harm in the facility.

Solitary confinement is the short-term isolation of an individual from the remaining prison population. It is a form of punishment given to individuals who breach any prison rules or discipline. Although it is put in place to ensure peace within the prison, it has some mental and physical effects on the individual. 

What is Solitary Confinement?

Solitary confinement is the isolation of an individual in an enclosed cell for 22 hours or days away from human contact. It is the confinement of any individual that breaks the prison’s discipline in restrictive housing. The practice is a conscious effort that limits any social interaction the individual can have within a period. 

Solitary confinement is also known as isolation, segregation, and lockdown in various parts of the world. In the U.S., an estimated number of 80,000 – 100,000 individuals are being held in a form of isolation. Some of the reasons for the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons are:

  • Temporary Isolation– An emergency segregation of an individual from others in prison due to a crisis such as a physical dispute. 
  • Disciplinary Isolation– The use of solitary confinement to punish individuals that break the prison discipline or rules. 
  • Administrative Isolation– The segregation of individuals that threatens the security and safety of others in prison. 

Individuals in confinement often have little to no interaction with others, pending their time in isolation. Also, solitary isolation has been under severe criticism for years because it causes some mental and physical effects. The confined individuals are often restricted or denied contact with friends or family. 

Solitary isolation increases the risks of undetected ill-treatment in the facility. The isolation is not only reserved for dangerous individuals but is also used to segregate detainees in the pre-trial stage of an investigation. 

Mental Health Effects

Several researches have shown that solitary confinement often leads to severe psychological effects in an individual. It also increases the risk of self-harm in these isolated individuals because it is depressing physical torture. Social contact is vital for humans, and the stress accustomed to being isolated can lead to mental health problems.  

Some of the mental health problems these individuals are prone to are:

  • These individuals often have a severe case of fearing death
  • A severe case of psychosis
  • Experiencing panic attacks
  • These individuals often experience problems with their memory, concentration, and attention
  • Social Withdrawal
  • A worsened case of any preexisting mental health issue
  • The feelings of hostility and anger
  • Feelings of hypersensitivity to smells and sounds
  • These individuals often feel hopeless and depression
  • Paranoia
  • Severe cases of stress and anxiety
  • These individuals can experience severe hallucination cases that can affect all their senses
  • A poor impulse control
  • An outburst of violence

Various individuals who experience isolation or confinement often find it difficult to live amongst other people even after release. Unfortunately, some may turn to drugs like opioids or alcohol to cope with the outside world. It is important to seek help if you or someone you know battles an opioid addiction. Seek guidance from professionals from opioid use treatment in Massachusetts and beat the addiction early.

Physical Health Effects

Besides mental health, solitary confinement also leads to several physical health effects. The loneliness and psychological trauma accompanying solitary confinement often lead to some physical health issues. When there is a lack of physical activity, it makes it difficult for these individuals to prevent or manage some health conditions. Some of these health conditions are:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure

Solitary confinement often denies the individual from getting Vitamin D due to the lack of sunlight in the room. It leads to Vitamin D deficiency, which can enable the individual to sustain injuries from falls and fractures. The following are some of the physical health effects of solitary isolation in individuals:

  • An increased loss of appetite
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme cases of sleep problems
  • Excessive sweating
  • Deterioration of the eyesight
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Digestive problems

Solitary ConfinemIsolation or Solitary Confinementents Have Severe Effects

The isolation of these individuals poses a threat to their physical and mental health. It is important to offer mental health support to ensure individuals are able to cope both in and out of prison. There are resources available to help those suffering with the adjustment or with addiction problems following their confinement.