Okay, we accept that it is necessary to imprison some people. Some people do really bad things and will continue to do really bad things unless they are reigned in. Imprisonment is not an easy ride, no matter what you might think about it. I understand that some people feel that modern day prisons are a bit too cushy. But being given an hour or so of tv, and a little time in the yard inside a high wall fence and razor wire, eating what you are fed, communal showers and toilets, and spending the rest of your time behind bars cannot be a pleasant experience.
But beyond that, we have solitary confinement, 23 hours out of a day in a room little more than a box, left only to your own thoughts. We might use such a punishment for a day, maybe two, but we know that some harden criminals spend weeks, months, even years in such conditions.
When we imprison someone, we have only two possible outcomes; sentence served with an assumed rehabilitation and release, or a life long sentence that ends in death. In the later case, the inherent problems with imprisonment stay within the system. If imprisonment further corrupts the criminal, it really does not matter as they are destine to remain within the system for the duration of their life. But in the former consideration, can solitary confinement ever be a good idea?
When looking over some in-prison infraction by an inmate and also knowing that the individual has the potential to be released at some point in the future, is it wise for the warden to dole out solitary confinement? Knowing this individual has the potential for release, is it wise to place them under a pressure that could mentally break the individual and even create some form of a psychosis?
Maybe the inmate deserves some increased punishment, perhaps his tv, visitation and yard time should be suspended and he should spend more time with the prison counselor. Knowing he may be released, can placing him in a mentally torturous position be a wise move?
Last week Tom Clements, the State Prison Chief for Colorado, was shot to death at the front door of his home. His killer, caught in Texas, was a white supremacist who has spent a deal of time in prison, and much of that was in solitary confinement. The killer’s father, John Ebel, is long time friends with the Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper. In a testimony by John Ebel before Colorado lawmakers, Mr. Ebel stated that he felt that solitary confinement was destroying his son’s psyche.
Evan Ebel, the shooter, was released on parole in January. Three months after his parole, and therefore after his planned release from prison, he killed Tom Clements, a Texas sheriff, and a pizza delivery man.
How could solitary confinement not destroy someone’s psyche? How can solitary confinement ever lead to rehabilitation or an improved mental outlook? Should we ever sentence an individual marked with a potential release date with solitaire?