In her article, The Living Death of Solitary Confinement, Lisa Guenther, an associate professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt University (Tennessee), argues it is profoundly harmful for both prisoners and society to isolate people in units where they are neither allowed nor obliged to create and sustain meaningful, supportive relationships with others. The article trails Professor Guenther’s forthcoming book Social Death and Its Afterlives: A Critical Phenomenology of Solitary Confinement.
The use of solitary confinement for life and long-term prisoners is an increasing phenomenon, with inmates spending extended periods in isolation, sometimes for years at a time. Prisoners are held in conditions that the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has found can amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and even torture.
In his statement to the 19th session of the Human Rights Council in March this year, the Special Rapporteur called on all countries to ban solitary confinement except in very exceptional circumstances and for minimal time periods. PRI co-organised a side event at the Council with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to endorse and reiterate the Special Rapporteur’s call for a ban.