I’ve always assumed a society should reflect the highest values of its citizen, which includes treating individuals with respect. Few would quarrel with that value, I think, until we turn our attention to the treatment of prisoners. Regrettably some people see jails as instruments of retribution without any component for rehabilitation.
Concern for rehabilitation puts me in the category of a bleeding heart, I know. But I don’t resent the accusation. Being compassionate is the least of my flaws. When it comes to how we run ourprisons, neither our hearts nor our guts should rule. Our heads need to be employed. Uppermost in our minds should be our understanding that except for the criminally insane, every prisoner will one day walk our streets again. We must ask ourselves in what state of mind do we wish them to be: better or worse than before their incarceration?
The growing practice of keeping prisoners in extended periods of solitary confinement is making the decision for us. Researcher have been studying its effect for some time and have arrived at some disturbing facts. Without human interaction, the connection between brain neurons and the cerebral cortex break down dramatically. Why that matters is because “the cerebral cortex is the part of the brain that makes us most human. This dime-thick intricate surface runs the two hemispheres of our brain. It’s where we make our plans, guide our movements and consciously respond to social cues. (“Going Crazy in Solitary” excerpted from Aeon Magazine by The Week, March 28, 2014, pgs. 40- 41). Isolation for even a few weeks begins the process of deterioration.
If society’s goal is to reduce male and female inmates to a primitive state before allowing them to walk among us once again, then we are achieving our goal. Solitary confinement is a mind altering experience so “fraught with risk that scientists require special dispensation to do it to animals.” (Ibid pg. 41)
(Courtesy of filipspangoli.wordpress.com)