Solitary Confinement: An Even Harsher Side to Mass Incarceration


In the past few months, the pages of The New York Times have been filled with reporting and opinion on the tragedy and cost of mass incarceration in the United States. Each article almost certainly references the critically-acclaimed best-seller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander. If you haven’t yet read it, please do. Professor Alexander presents a frightening and compelling argument that is not to be missed.

Last week, a new article, Prisons Rethink Isolation, Saving Money, Lives and Sanity, peeled back yet another layer from the world’s most prolific prison system: the practice of isolating a shockingly high number of those who are incarcerated in an attempt to maintain order in so-called super-max facilities.

As with mass incarceration itself, the numbers are disturbing and the results less-than-impressive. In fact, the article details Mississippi’s recent experience with closing a special isolation unit completely. Faced with an explosive situation at Unit 32 on the grounds of the infamous Parchman Farm, the authorities gambled by gradually moving the isolated inmates into the general population and to other facilities. The results were surprising.

Sometimes, justice is not as costly as we think it is. Check out Prisons Rethink Isolation, Saving Money, Lives and Sanity.