Children may be described as to be very vulnerable to any sort of torture, either physical or mental. However, regardless of the age or the status of an offender, solitary confinement has always been described as psychological torture. The effect of this solitary confinement is irreversible physiological effects on adults as little as after 15 days while in children it is lesser than 10 days (Gordon, 2014). So, what really is solitary confinement? There is no single definition of solitary confinement but the United Nations describes this as a period when an inmate is held in isolation for at least 22 hours per day (Scialabba, 2016).In this, it has been discovered that this type of isolation is particularly harmful to juveniles more than adults considering the nature of psychology. Discoveries by scientists have indicated that the brains of adolescents and all people under the age of 18 are highly underdeveloped and as a matter of fact, the brain does not attain maturity until past the teenage years. The frontal lobe of the brain controls the emotional capability and is the last to mature and therefore confining children to solitude may be harmful to its development (Dimon, 2014). In general, solitary confinement disrupts and disorients neurological and psychological functioning of the brain causing cognitive deficits,paranoia,obsessive thinking, panic attacks,anger,anxiety,depression among others (Dimon, 2014)Therefore, it is important for the judicial system to reconsider the solitary treatment for juveniles because of the various psychological effects associated with it.
Children are bound to get into a problem which may subsequently mean a jail term. In prison, solitary confinement, which can run for weeks and sometimes months, can occur as a result of other infractions such as fighting etc. The aspect of solitary confinement means that the child is subjected to psychological torture and even after release from prison, there are very high chances that he/she is not likely to resume his/her normal life.in extreme cases, children and youths end up committing suicide because of the long-lasting impact of the solitary confinement (Scialabba, 2016).Other effects of solitary confinement include delirious dreams, disorientation, waking in cold sweats, panicking and generally the feeling of going crazy, which can occur even 16 years after the release from solitary confinement (Dimon, 2014).As a matter of fact, various states have re-examined the case of solitary confinement and the city of New York is determined to end this cruel treatment of juvenile offenders. The practice was expected to end by the first day of 2015, according to the U.S attorney (Kirchner, 2014).
Considering punishment to offenders, children should have a lenient term because their level of culpability is relatively lower and different from adults.in this respect, their minds are still developing and studies have indicated that this development is much longer than what was initially expected. Therefore, the problem with juveniles who have been subjected to solitary confinement is the lack of impulse control. Exposure to these conditions disorients their impulses and as such, plays a huge part in determining their behaviors (Kirchner, 2014).
Solitary confinement was initially practiced in 1829 because the prison system believed that it promoted repentance and rehabilitation. Initially, the prisoners were put into stone cells with bibles and this was particularly a Quaker belief (Scialabba, 2016).Contrary to this belief, the prisoners showed some forms of insanity and the practice was abandoned shortly thereafter. At a later review of the solitary confinement system in 1890, it was found out that the conditions arising from solitary confinement were irreversible and some inmates who had been subjected to this system went to extreme situations such as a predisposition to violence and even suicide. Furthermore, some of these symptoms were exhibited by people who had been subjected to the confinement for short periods.
The beginning of the 20th century saw reforms in the prison system with the Alcatraz prison being established to house the worst of the worst .in this prison, extreme solitary conditions were practiced where some prisoners were put into a room that was of bare concrete except for a hole in the middle. Furthermore, not only was there no contact with the other inmates, the confined inmate was naked and bread and water were shoved to him through the small hole. A better confinement status in this particular prison included clothing but there was still no physical contact with the other inmates.
The year 1983 saw the establishment of the 23-hour lockdown system where prisoners were, and are still, not allowed to work or engage in communal services. The system came as a result of the murder of police wardens. Five years later, the state would build a supermax facility that basically houses inmates who serve their time while in isolation. In this prison, the inmates are subjected to inhuman conditions such as spending 22 ½ hours inside a small cell while the remaining hours are spent in isolation in concrete pens.Thi system consequently led to the boom of supermax facilities in the 1990s.later on in 2005, a study found out that there were over 40 states that operate supermax and isolation prisons and collectively hold about 25000 U.S prisoners (Sullivan, 2006)
Solitary Confinement for Juveniles
It has been described that solitary confinement has become a norm in the prison system. In a prison study, it was estimated that in the year 2005, 80000 prisoners were in solitary confinement (Callagher, 2014). The conditions of solitary confinement are extreme such that there is no light, no interaction nor eating with the general population, no reading material, no television or radio and no visitation. In particular, sensory deprivation is the factor that makes the condition all the more inhumane
.In the juvenile system, solitary confinement is practiced for four reasons: disciplinary, administrative, protective and medical all serving different purposes but the conditions are the same. On the aspect of administrative purposes, the juveniles are held in solitary units because of factors such as overcrowding and for control purposes. Protective custody is practiced both in juvenile and adult prisons with the main purpose to protect the inmates from themselves. Furthermore, juveniles who are charged as adults are put into protective custody to separate them from the other group who may cause harm to them. Lastly, disciplinary confinement is meant to remove the prisoner from the general population because of some minor infraction such as fighting, assault etc.
Effects of Isolation on Juveniles
Adults develop the various mechanism to fight depression and negative impulses but teenagers and juveniles do not. Adults are able to manage the psychology during times that may be frightening, lonely and even unfair but the retaliatory response from juveniles include self-harm, suicide, anti-social and aggressive behaviors.Furthermore, adult prisons have counseling services and even subject the offender to psychological examinations all in a bid to establish his/her ability to fit in the system. All these measures are not available in juvenile prisons, therefore, the stated behavioral tendencies of juveniles subjected to isolation. A study established that most juveniles during confinement experience hallucinations, anxiety, severe rage, depression, suicidal thoughts and others inflict self-harm (Callagher, 2014).
In terms of gender, girls are more likely to experience severe psychological torture than boys. As a matter of fact, during the adolescent years, girls exhibit depression at a higher rate than boys while girls who are incarnated are more susceptible to mental health problems.According to a study conducted on detained girls, it was found out that 50% had eating disorder, 47% exhibited suicide and self-harm while 67% had a psychiatric disorder (Callagher, 2014).To hit the nail on the head, studies also indicate that youths and juveniles in solitary confinement are more likely to commit suicide than those in the general population. In this, a study that was conducted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in 1999 established that 50% of deaths on the juveniles who were incarnated occurred under solitary confinement while 62% of juvenile deaths in prison occurred on youths who were at some stage in their life under solitary confinement (Callagher, 2014).
All these statistics are attributed to the fact that the brain of a juvenile is yet to develop fully. It is during this period that they experience various psychological shifts particularly on the aspect of organizing thoughts, planning etc. The frontal lobe is under development during this period and as such, the juvenile is under immense pressure from the environment and society.
The methodology for this research will take place as a systematic review of relevant literature, and proposed methodology for field research incorporating survey or questionnaire tools: 1) an unstructured, open-ended survey of juveniles under detention and 2) a Likert Scale questionnaire for respondents that will add quantitative data and establish the level of thoughts primarily on suicide and other forms of psychological disorder.
The Survey will be conducted on juveniles between the ages of 10 and 18.In this, the juvenile will answer basic questions that will be provided such as suicidal attempts, number of entries into correctional facilities, psychological experiences etc. This diagnostic interview will try and establish the thoughts of death, suicidal attempts, and self-harm, psychiatric disorder all on the Likert scale from where various conclusions will be drawn.
Callagher, l. A. (2014). More Than a Time Out: Juvenile Solitary Confinement. UC Davis Journal ofJuvenile Law & Policy.
Dimon, L. (2014, June 30). How solitary confinement hurts the teenage brain. Retrieved from The Atlantic: www.theatlantic.comamp/article/373002
Gordon, S. E. (2014). SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, PUBLIC SAFETY, AND RECIDIVISM. University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform.
Kirchner, L. (2014, October 9). WHY SOLITARY CONFINEMENT HURTS JUVENILES MORE THAN ADULTS. Retrieved from Pacific Standard: psmag.com/.amp/news/solitary-confinement-hurts-juveniles-adults-92054
Scialabba, N. (2016, June 27). making the case to end solitary confinement for juveniles. Retrieved from American bar: apps.americanbar.org/litigationcommittess/childrights/content/articles/summer
Sullivan, l. (2006, July 26). Timeline: solitary confinement in U.S prisons. Retrieved from life in solitary confinement: www.npr.org/template/story/story.php?