Solitary Confinement can leave a psychological scar and impact upon cognitive functions on an individual. Modern-day terms for solitary confinement is known as the box or the shoe. It is classified to prisoners as a prison within the prison. In order to get sent to solitary confinement, a prisoner must commit an offense within the prison to earn a trip to the “box”. It’s the worst possible punishment you can face in prison. Solitary confinement is being locked down for twenty-three hours a day with one hour of recreation time. Solitary confinement can take a heavy toll on an inmate’s mental health.
This type of isolation can create little to none sensory output with the outside environment and jail population. Upon return to jail population, it can create problems for the individual and external stimuli such as other inmates, workers, and even correction officers. This can also lead to a deficiency in cognitive functions. If locked in solitary for too long, a person can deal with psychosocial problems and mental disorders upon release from solitary.
Many individuals enter these units with mental stability and after a short period of time leave with mental illnesses. This topic was debated among U.S. courts on the problems it creates for individuals incarcerated and individuals inching closer to release. In a discussion of a case study, it tackles the mental health issues surrounding solitary. It discusses the risk it poses to the mental health of these inmates (Haney, 2003). Some of these individuals will eventually be placed back into the jail population, or even released into the outside world suffering from these mental illnesses and mental traumas that solitary confinement can create. During a study conducted by Stuart Grassian, it is proven that one-third of the prison population, including solitary inmates, suffer from suicidal thoughts and eventually turn crazy (Breslow, 2014). This form of isolation can lead to a psychological impact on cognitive functions.
Being in prison can lead to mental disorders, but conditions can worsen when placed in solitary. Solitary creates issues such as panic attacks, lack of concentration, lack of memory, paranoia, vivid hallucinations, hyposensitivity towards external environment, and instability to control impulses (Breslow, 2014). Many of these inmates go insane and begin to talk themselves just to cope with being locked down twenty-three hours a day. This is an outlet used by inmates to handle the pressures solitary. It is hard for inmates to return to jail populations because they are used to being locked down twenty-three hours a day. Solitary confinement is a sudden shift in their daily routine as an inmate. Most individuals can’t adjust to it mentally. Many of the inmates that do adjust, only create problems within the environment because their only punishment is solitary and aren’t afraid to go back. Those individuals that do re-offend have no problem with a trip to “the box”. Many inmates are able to handle the mental strain better than other inmates because of their numerous visits to solitary. However, for some inmates, the isolation is too much to bear. This can lead to issues mentioned earlier and creates a sense of security being isolated from the jail population. Some inmates can’t adjust to life outside “the box” because their cognitive functions are inadequate for the social environment of the jail population. They become hypersensitive to external stimuli easily after being isolated for so long. Many inmates see returning to the jail population as not an option and re-offend to find security within solitary.
This isolation demonstrates social identity theory. Being locked in solitary can create an identity issue for these inmates. The individual isn’t able to create a sense of who they are and can’t apply that to the social environment of the jail population. Upon release of the confinement, it destroys the social perception that is created and promoted in the jail population. These confinements not only affect the cognitive functions of these inmates but also influence changes in behavior patterns. The slight changes in behaviors become apparent after being locked down for these long periods of time. These behaviors are reflections of how solitary confinement can leave a psychological scar upon an individual.