The Use of Solitary Confinement and Its Effect On Mental Health


  • Giovana Numa John Jay College


The US has a substantial inmate population and uses solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure. However, it can be highly damaging to an inmate's physical and psychological health, especially if they are a member of a vulnerable population or protected class. Correctional officers can misuse solitary confinement for power and control, especially among inmates who are of a racial minority, female, LGBTQ+ or have a history of mental illness. The disparity between how racial minority inmates are treated versus their counterparts creates significant distrust and tension between them and correctional officers. For instance, African-American and Latino men are more likely to receive conduct infractions and be sent to solitary than White inmates. This can result in more incidents between correctional officers and the affected inmates, creating hostility, aggression, and a more significant power imbalance. The criminal justice and corrections system needs to be reformed so that rehabilitation and treatment are a function of it, rather than abuse of power and the consistent mistreatment of inmates while in solitary confinement.