Editors note: This was inspired by a submission from 'A K', who recently joined Amnesty International (website), an organization that supports the abolishment of long-term solitary confinement.

The situation of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is currently imprisoned in solitary confinement, draws attention to the question of the humanity of this disputed method of imprisonment.

Based on the Eighth Amendment, solitary confinement is a special form of imprisonment in which the prisoner is detained inside a very small, often windowless cell in a state of near-total solitude. The cell is usually furnished with a toilet, a shower, a bed and a small slot in the door to receive food.  Frequently, prisoners are not allowed to make phone calls or receive visitors.

The purposes of solitary confinement are, among other things, the protection from other inmates and the rehabilitation and monitoring of extremely violent or suicidal prisoners. The number of prisoners held in solitary confinement in the U.S. is difficult to determine, because most states refrain from publishing the relevant data and many do not even collect it.
Solitary confinement has always been a very controversial method of punishment, but the wave of criticism has intensified since the release of various alarming studies concerning the physical, psychological as well as social and developmental harms of prisoners concerned. The permanent isolation and lack of adequate exercise and rehabilitation programs often lead to anxiety, rage, insomnia, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

Consequential damages occur even worse when young prisoners are concerned. They don’t have the maturity of an adult and are at a particularly vulnerable, formative stage of life. This is why it seems clear that they are psychologically unable to handle solitary confinement with the resilience of an adult. Regarding this point, it seems incomprehensible that leading legislators still don’t make furthering efforts to take legal measures to distinguish between punishments for adults and adolescents.

Certainly, young people aren't less capable of committing horrible crimes, which affect victims, their families and communities, than adults. It is also obvious that it is the state’s duty to ensure accountability for serious crimes. But how can a government, which claims to care about the liberty and welfare of its citizens, ignore the bad treatment of (especially young) prisoners, which harms their development and rehabilitation?

International human rights law requires the US government to protect all prisoners from mistreatment, especially disadvantaged persons such as adolescents. If solitary confinement  fail to meet the psychological, physical, social, and developmental needs of adolescents, you could consider these failures as violations of fundamental rights.

What do you think about solitary confinement? How should prisons handle with violent prisoners, keeping in mind the safety of guards and other inmates?
Prudence
5/9/2013 11:35:01 am

I feel like in a situation like this one, it's probably the safest course of action at the moment. I know he's young and it seems harsh, but taking into account the amount of negative coverage this particular story has garnered, Dzhokhar would probably be in danger if he was put in with the general population.

At this point, it's not really a matter of rehabilitation and more needing to keep him safe so he can go to trial. I would hope there would be a better solution in the event that he is found guilty.

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Ally
5/9/2013 11:52:01 am

Solitary will be safer for some prisoners, guards, etc. Rules regarding solitary need to be changed, however. More breaks are needed. One hour a day is not enough. And those breaks should be for more than walking in a dog pen. TVs should be allowed in the cells. Visitation should be allowed. Solitary should not be torture and prisoners should not break down into full mental illness because of it.

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5/11/2013 12:11:38 am

Solitary confinement cells are rarely if ever furnished with showers. In the facilities I have been in and am familiar with inmates are escorted once or twice a week to a single shower.

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Prudence
5/11/2013 12:36:08 am

What does everyone think of it in general? Should someone who has been convicted of rape or child molestation or murder, for example, deserve fair treatment in prison? Do you feel like these stipulations should only be required for prisoners in jail awaiting trial?

Just curious what everyones views are on the subject.

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Lisa
5/11/2013 04:11:59 am

Solitary confinement definitely needs to be reformed. I agree that it is often necessary for a prisoner’s personal safety or for someone who is particularly dangerous. It is also used as punishment for prisoners who have broken the rules. For those like Dzhokhar, who are there only for their personal safety, I believe that they should have more privileges. Why not allow them to exercise, watch TV, listen to music, have visitors, etc? I don’t think someone should be punished further because of the publicity of his alleged crimes.

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Ally
5/11/2013 11:09:16 am

I believe everyone deserves fair treatment. No matter what the crime. Prison is for punishment and/or reform. It is NOT for torture. The way solitary is used now, is torture. Our prisons should not be worse than some 3rd world countries. Yet, that is how Shane Bauer reported them to be. Google search his article he wrote for Mother Jones. It's called "Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me, Then I Went Inside America's Prisons". We should be ashamed.

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Simone
5/12/2013 03:59:53 pm

I agree that prison is for punishment and/or reform and not for torture. Especially in the case of a young person because the person that you are at eg. 19, is not the same person you will be at 29, 39 and so-forth. A person can also only become a better or a worse based on environmental influences and especially influences from other people. I also think that prison should be the place where the offender should be guided through he process of acknowledging what they have done, take responsibility for it, repent and then guide them through and towards change.Unfortunately, this does not happen because most people don't look at the human, all they see is the crime.

Ciara
5/11/2013 10:43:38 am

I don't have anything to add that hasn't already been said but I'd like to thank the blogger for this website. I believe the kid is innocent. From the minute I watched the bombing happen live things didn't seem to add up. Unlike the publicized free Jahar supports, I'm educated, in my mid 30's and the wife of a 20 year army JAG paralegal. Im by no means a conspiracy nut. It's refreshing to read adults discuss this.

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Ally
5/11/2013 11:04:08 am

Hi Ciara! It is certainly refreshing to hear from other adults out there. I'm an educated 40-something myself. I'm so tired of "fangirls" focusing on this kids looks. I understand he's cute, but COME ON! It's nice to have found a website thats a bit more professional and is serious in its approach. I've always been interested in prisoner rights, but this case has sparked new interest. Something about that kid, the way he's been treated, and a lot of things that don't add up. I'm anxious to hear his side of the story.

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Prudence
5/11/2013 12:51:14 pm

I'm 32 and was extremely pleased to find a website that gave us all an outlet to discuss this case in a mature and educated manner.

I, too, disagree with the manner in which prisoners are often treated. An eye for an eye never has been the way to get anything accomplished. The sooner most Americans can realize that, the better off we'll be as a society and a country. That's my opinion at least.

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Audi alteram pa
5/12/2013 02:56:29 pm

I too am very happy to find a forum for which this case can be discussed in an adult manner, while at the same time, I find comments from the younger generation (who are actually interested in the implications of the case) very thought provoking and Being 39, with no children, I appreciate having the opportunity to see this from their point of view.

I have been in the minority when saying that as of now, he is innocent. And being in the minority on this is very disappointing.

It seems that suspects being held for trial should be granted far more privileges than those convicted but according to reports, he is imprisoned in his cell 23 hours a day.

The meaning behind of Innocent Until Proven guilty lies in the fact that the burden of proof lies on the shoulders of the accuser, but thanks to the media and the overall treatment of suspects, this phrase has become cliche and meaningless to the mainstream.

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Simone
5/12/2013 11:05:39 pm

," I find comments from the younger generation (who are actually interested in the implications of the case) very thought provoking". I'm in total agreement with this. I'm a 49 year old mother of a 19 year old, very chill, stress-free kinda guy, sweet son (sound familiar?) and a College teacher of students who are very affected by this entire event. I can't help myself for caring about this boy because it could so easily be my son or any of my students.

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Prudence
5/13/2013 12:49:30 am

And I think it's outlooks like this one that many people fail to consider. This is someones brother, son, uncle, friend. If everyone could take a step back and think about that and put themselves in someone else's shoes, it would be an entirely different situation.

Sibel
5/13/2013 02:39:15 am

A large number of the people who gets solitary are usually those in need of rehabilitation. It is important that we can differentiate those who do evil for a mental illness and those who do evil for a cause. Ultimately, I can say that I'll never feel pleasure of another man's suffer, no matter who that man is. Solitary confinement is inhuman and goes against the rights I believe all humans deserve. And who are we to deprive the rights of a man? It is a medieval punishment and is so wrong that can see my knuckles turn white as I write this.

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Love123
5/13/2013 09:01:33 am

I am very glad to find a forum of mature and humane discussions when it comes to this guy too, but i will say tho that everybody in the younger generation arent that immature. Im a 21 year old college girl and i can agree that he is innocent because of the facts not because he's cute. I dont believe in being inhumane towards the inhumane or the mentally ill, thats like trying to put out fire with more fire, youre only going to make it worse. If ppl want justice they need to learn forgiveness and pray for the ones that have caused them pain instead of chanting for their deaths. If the law enforcement wants to decrease crime they need to get to the bottom of the problem and fix it instead of throwing it in a dungeon and throwing away the key. How will anything be solved with inhumanity and violence? Thats what creates the next monsters in the world because its almost always about getting revenge in the name of justice. Theres an ending for everything and that includes all illnesses and evil manners but i believe violence torture and death isnt the way to end all that because it will only come back and attack even more. Its a never ending cycle of cruelty and it is just another one those slow and painful ways to dehumanize the human race.

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Audi alteram pa
5/13/2013 10:50:50 am

Love123, your sentiments remind me of one of my favorite quotes, "Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster; and if you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes into you."

Thanks for sharing your perspective, I couldn't agree more.

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