Solitary confinement is the most severe disciplinary punishment in prison. It further restricts the already very limited rights of persons deprived of their liberty. Therefore, the procedure and conditions for the application of a penalty, including the violation for which it can be imposed, must be clearly spelled out in the law. Despite the fact that its use is undesirable, even for a short time, solitary confinement remains an effective protective measure.
Depriving a prisoner of contact with other prisoners may be carried out as routine protective procedures. This standard is typically provided for by law and serves as a high-security measure (Lobel & Smith, 2019). Understanding the inherent danger of such punishment, countries set the maximum period during which such sentence can be imposed. This ranges from a few days to a month or more. In some countries, prison directors are allowed to set a specific maximum term, while the judicial authority may impose a longer term. Most countries – but not all – prohibit consecutive sentences to solitary confinement (Lobel & Smith, 2019). Considering the likely hazardous consequences of solitary confinement, the principle of proportionality demands to be applied as a protective penalty; however, it is used only in exceptional cases.
There are prisoners in every jail system who may need protection from their cellmates. This may be due to the nature of their crime, their cooperation with criminal justice authorities, gang conflicts, debts outside or inside prison, or the general vulnerability of a particular person. Although, under such circumstances, the detention conditions of many prisoners can be regulated within the prison population. The risk for some of these prisoners is that the prison can perform its duties towards these persons only if they are kept separate from the rest of the prisoners. This can be done at the request of the prisoner or the initiative of the prison management when it is deemed necessary. Regardless of the process, it is still increasingly difficult for a prisoner to get out of such protection for the rest of their punishment and for the next prison terms.
States have an obligation to ensure safe conditions for prisoners and should strive to fulfill this obligation by providing as much social interaction between prisoners as possible, which is compatible with maintaining regular order. However, sometimes the level of interaction should be reduced to guarantee top-level safety. Solitary incarceration for security purposes should be resorted to only in cases where there are no other ways to ensure the safety of the inmate.
Solitary confinement as a protective tool is especially vital for sustaining order among different groups of individuals. For instance, if a prisoner belongs to the minority group such as LGBTQ, there is a chance they will not be accepted by other inmates, which can cause a fatal outcome (Lobel & Smith, 2019). Typically, it occurs due to the prisoner’s negligence of various sexual orientations. In this case, solitary confinement can be an effective preventive means aimed at reducing the in-prison crime rate.
The other case when isolation is needed is when an inmate attempts to commit suicide or cause self-harm. Since prisoners may kill themselves, it is risky to place them with other individuals. Consequently, it is recommended to isolate them from the rest of the inmates to ensure they are not dangerous to other people. In addition, such detainees with mental deviations should be observed by health specialists alongside the authorities to make a proper decision regarding their further confinement.
What is more, some prisoners may suffer from behavioral disorders that may potentially complicate inmates lives. The prison authorities could incarcerate these individuals to maintain order in prison facilities. Conduct deviation is the underlying cause of in-prison accidents, including domestic conflict or even murder (Lobel & Smith, 2019). Hence, placing a violator in a solitary cell for a specified amount of time serves as both punishment and protective action.
Ultimately, the new prisoners may not be accepted by others because of their crimes. Commonly, pedophiles and rapists are treated violently by their inmates since this felony is one of the most severe. Their jail mates apply the same methods of violence that they previously used to their victims. To protect these criminals from contact with other convicts as much as possible, the prisons resort to solitary confinement measures in order to ensure safety on the basic level (Lobel & Smith, 2019). It presumes that the authorities aim to lower a pedophile or rapist who can be murdered.
In conclusion, solitary confinement should be used only in exceptional cases, as a last resort and for as short a period as possible. However, it is an efficient tool to protect prisoners who may be too dangerous or vulnerable while behind bars. There are cases when isolation is the best option to maintain on-site orders. Some criminals may commit self-harming actions; others may not be merely accepted due to their sexual orientation. Consequently, solitary isolation is the most efficient means of reducing in-prison conflicts and crimes and protecting people’s lives.
Lobel, J., & Smith, P. (2019). Solitary confinement: Effects, practices, and pathways toward reform. (2019). Oxford University Press.