Dangers of Solitary Confinement of the Mentally Ill

The disastrous effects of solitary confinement on people with mental illness is well-known and well-documented. Yet the practice continues in jails, prisons, and even in mental health institutions. As an attorney for people subject to involuntary commitments, I have personally reviewed many medical records reflecting the use of “seclusion rooms” (i.e., solitary confinement) for behavioral modification purposes that have nothing to do with dangerousness or violence. One of my clients who was involuntarily confined at a mental institution was thrown into the seclusion room one or two times each week for misbehavior like failing to take a shower or missing a meal. This is unlawful–but very, very common. In many detention centers, the isolation cells are the size of a parking space. They contain only a steel “bed,” with no mattress, sheets or blankets. Food is slipped through a crack in the door. The inmates have no human contact, and are kept in the cell 23 out of 24 hours each day. Oftentimes, they are given a paper gown to wear, supposedly to protect them from self-harm, but completely inadequate to keep them warm in a cold cell. Solitary confinement is a form of restraint, and is only to be used when necessary to prevent a violent person from harming himself or others. But instead, it’s become a tool of convenience for corrections officers and care providers at mental institutions. And this unlawful conduct continues unchecked, because people subjected to it, like Andrew, can’t make their voices heard.

#wecanandmustdobetter #mentalillness #voice


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