Solitary is a routine form of torture

The Post’s View
The harm of solitary confinement in prisons

IN 1890, THE U.S. Supreme Court almost declared the practice of solitary confinement in prisons to be unconstitutional.

In a majority opinion, Justice Samuel Miller — a physician and a lawyer — emphasized the practice’s serious risks to mental health: “A considerable number of the prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others still, committed suicide.” Miller also emphasized solitary confinement’s futility as a punishment: Those “who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed,” he wrote, “and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community.”

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