On February 8, 2018, I along with Dr. Everett Allen (an internist who worked for several years at California Pelican Bay State Prison's solitary confinement), Cyrus Ahalt (a UCSF Public Health and Criminal Justice researcher), and Steven Czifra (a UC Berkeley MSW intern who was confined in solitary confinement for eight years while in juvenile then adult corrections facilities), presented on the relevance of solitary confinement to community mental health at the California Contra Costa County Psychiatry and Psychology monthly meeting.

Solitary confinement is being held in a small cell for 22 to 24 hours a day with minimal property and no meaningful human contact. We reviewed the physical and psychological harms of this most restrictive housing placement. In addition, we explored the dual loyalties for providers as they participate in this practice. As providers, is it ethical to declare someone fit for this high risk containment? This is what is happening — we are witnesses and participants.

Canada's Supreme Court declared solitary confinement unconstitutional in January 2018. A few months later, India, too, acknowledged this preventable harm. When will this nation reach this decision? On any given day in the USA, 100,000 are held in these extreme conditions, some unconscionably for years and decades. Fifty percent of suicides occur in these restrictive segregations, and self injurious behaviors are rampant.

This is preventable. We, as providers, will see these individuals as patients when released. Ninety-five percent of those incarcerated will be released. As community members, we will walk, shop, eat, live with them. Do we want traumatized or rehabilitated individuals? Some of you may feel this issue does not pertain to you, but ethical guidelines of "first do no harm" and human rights concern us all.

I am hoping you will join me in signing the petition I wrote to end prolonged solitary confinement (greater than 15 days) in American jails, prisons, and detention centers. Please share with others. Click on link below to read and sign the petition.


Photo credit: Tim Pearce/Flickr.com

Photo credit: Tim Pearce/Flickr.com