Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Solitary Confinement: Not Just Bradley Manning

This morning, the CNN website features a piece by psychiatrist Terry Kupers from the Wright Institute regarding Wikileaks suspect Bradley Manning's imprisonment conditions. Terry, author of Prison Madness (reviewed here by Psychiatric Services), argues that keeping Manning in solitary confinement is cruel and counterproductive to the goal of preserving Manning's safety and sanity.

I haven't read Prison Madness, but this excellent 2009 New Yorker article by Atul Gawande is helpful in explaining why solitary confinement is one of the cruelest forms of imprisonment. My two cents: Manning's headline case should not be seen as exceptional. It should draw our attention to the fact that non-Wikileaking inmates are, as a matter of routine, held in solitary confinement -- even if, as our pal Sara from the Prison Law Blog remarks, CDCR insist on calling it something else. In addition to the maddening conditions, I frequently receive letters from inmates complaining about the strict control over reading materials at SHU units.

When reading about the imprisonment conditions of some particular inmate or other whose issue has made the news, I find it useful to think how many unnamed, invisible folk are subjected to the same, or worse, incarceration regimes. I encourage my readers to do the same.

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