Solitary confinement often isn’t solitary

by on March 29, 2016 at 2:43 am in Current Affairs, Law | Permalink

…over 80 percent of the 10,747 federal prisoners in solitary have a cellmate.

In many places, prisons have turned to double celling to cope with overcrowding. “If you can come up with a better way to do this, understanding the fact that we are 162 percent of capacity without double celling, I’m willing to listen to you,” an Illinois Corrections Department spokesman told reporters and mental health advocates in 1994, when the state faced criticism for doubling up the mental health units at Menard. Illinois is under particular pressure as one of the most over-stuffed prison systems in the country.

“We’ve done this utterly bizarre thing, which is to put two people in cells that were built for one and leave them both in there for 23 or more hours a day,” says Craig Haney, a psychologist who has studied solitary for more than 30 years.

That is from Christie Thompson, via The Browser.

1 Steve Sailer March 29, 2016 at 2:54 am

“Hell is other people” — Sartre

In this case, old Jean-Paul may have had a point.

2 William March 29, 2016 at 3:37 am

You should probably make an effort to learn what a quote actually means before using it. Just a thought.

3 anonymous March 29, 2016 at 4:51 am

It’s such a common misrepresentation that it has a life of its own. After all…

“When a thing has been said and well said, have no scruple: take it and copy it.” — Anatole France

4 Gafiated March 29, 2016 at 7:30 am

“Man is condemned to be misquoted.” – Sartre

5 Thiago Ribeiro March 29, 2016 at 10:15 am

” I hate quotation. Tell me what you know.”– Emerson
Yes, it is out of context. See also Sartre on being misquoted above.

6 David Brown March 29, 2016 at 9:06 am

I watched the play. Three people in a room, all equally narcisstic and hateful, forced to spend eternity in each other’s company. The allusion to it seems rather on point. Why do you disagree.

7 Ray Lopez March 29, 2016 at 4:16 am

Straussian meaning in this post, as it’s considered by some that solitary is cruel and unusual punishment since you have nobody to talk to.

8 Pshrnk March 29, 2016 at 9:06 am

Give them internet access so they can comment on MR and they will not feel alone.

9 RW March 29, 2016 at 9:46 am

Only extroverts find solitary confinement to be a large discomfort.

The proximate problem here is rather prison overcrowding. Overcrowded prisons result from severe over-criminalization of victimless crimes and base corruption of the American justice system. Less than 10% of Federal prisoners are incarcerated for violent crimes.
Caging humans seems eternally attractive to rulers, and especially attractive to U.S. Congressmen.

10 JWatts March 29, 2016 at 9:52 am

I know somebody that’s in prison currently for violating the EPA asbestos removal guidelines.

11 anon March 29, 2016 at 10:02 am

Better than death by asbestosis. My friend’s father died that way, probably shortcutting rules.

12 Just Saying March 29, 2016 at 10:53 am

Not a victimless crime.

13 JWatts March 29, 2016 at 11:40 am

Not a violent crime either.

14 Cliff March 29, 2016 at 11:10 am

“Only extroverts find solitary confinement to be a large discomfort”

If only…

15 anominon March 29, 2016 at 11:35 am

…apparently you’re not an introvert. Typical extrovert does not understand introversion at all and views introverts as oddballs, though the mix in society is about 50-50.

16 chris purnell March 29, 2016 at 12:02 pm

23 hours a day in a tiny room but only ‘extroverts’ suffer ‘large discomfort? This sounds like the sort of crass justification of waterboarding, which survived right up to the point that blowhards actually had done to them. Double-celling? If that isn’t torture I sense I’m losing sight of the concept.

17 Lord Action March 29, 2016 at 12:59 pm

I think you may be losing sight of the concept and trivializing torture.

18 Henry March 29, 2016 at 5:02 am

Is there a reason the feds aren’t contracting out? The private prison industry is surely capable of building some adequate facilities quickly. What gives?

19 dan1111 March 29, 2016 at 9:26 am


20 Cooper March 29, 2016 at 1:00 pm

The cost difference between the highest and lowest cost states for incarceration is more than 2 to 1.

Among cities, it is even worse. In NYC the average cost to house an inmate is $168,000/year.

There’s a reason that they build so many prisons in upstate New York and it’s not just as a jobs program for rural residents…

21 Thiago Ribeiro March 29, 2016 at 1:54 pm

It seems a lot of money.

22 rayward March 29, 2016 at 5:59 am

A law school professor took a group of us law students to several state prisons, where double celling was the norm due to overcrowding. Not two inmates in a cell built for one, but eight inmates in a cell built for four. It was winter and the radiator heat combined with the overcrowding made the place claustrophobic. The air was hot and wreaked of sweat and body odor, the inmates staring at us with blank expressions like caged animals at the zoo. Double celling is no relief from solitary confinement but cruelty beyond belief.

23 Ray Lopez March 29, 2016 at 9:11 am

Cry me a river (NOT). If you read about mafiosa, OMG (biker gang members), drug and street gangs, you’ll find a common theme: they are asked by their crime members to commit themselves to harming their family if asked to do so (putting them in harms way, so if the gang members run afoul of their organization the family members will suffer). Even drug lords will sacrifice their entire family to gain an edge. Reminds me of the Roman rulers who routinely did this, or also the Chinese despots. A common theme somewhere there.

24 jim jones March 29, 2016 at 6:01 am

If only we could find the genes for criminality, a touch of CRISPR and the problem is solved

25 anon March 29, 2016 at 10:03 am

But that would eliminate Republicans too!

26 JWatts March 29, 2016 at 10:01 am

One of the underlying issue here is not “prison space”, but instead the relatively high cost (including pensions) of prison staff. I imagine you could significantly increase the physical space if you allowed facilities with lower staffing allocations. But I suspect there are a myriad of rules that prevent this approach, even if the end result is worse.

27 dan1111 March 29, 2016 at 11:12 am

Comparing states would probably be useful here. The highest-spending state spends about 4x as much per inmate as the lowest spending states.

28 Alain March 29, 2016 at 11:13 am


29 So Much For Subtlety March 29, 2016 at 8:22 pm

Charles Murray wrote an interesting pamphlet about the prison system. He pointed out that Texas used to run a cheap prison service mainly because they relied on the help of trustees. I believe trustees were even given guns. He compared it with Minnesota’s or somewhere up North. Where prison guards were called by their first names.

The Texas system was a lot less violent.

Now perhaps the Trustee system worked on the assumption the Trustee would coerce young offenders into sexual relations. I don’t know. It should be unacceptable if so – a prison sentence should be a prison sentence, not a prison term plus the chance of rape. But the Texas system certainly seems otherwise more effective.

The ACLU killed it of course. The Civil Rights movement comes with a death toll. The prison crowding is just part of it. The radicals who shut the nuclear industry down said they planned to prevent any solution to the waste so that the system would become clogged and then die. It is what they have tried with the death penalty. Clearly they are trying it with prison as a whole. Look at California. We need laws against lawfare.

30 Alain March 31, 2016 at 12:42 am

Agreed. The ACLU is the worst.

31 jorod March 29, 2016 at 11:02 pm

It is very simple. Abolish the welfare state and socialism. The welfare state manufactures poor, ignorant and violent people faster than law abiding citizens.

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