Prison under fire for solitary confinement of mentally ill

A recent investigation by the Department of Justice found that a state prison in Pennsylvania had been mistreating mentally ill prisoners by keeping them in solitary confinement for months or years.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections plans to close down the facility, but investigators believe the practice may also be occurring in other correctional institutions throughout the state, too.

Cruel and unusual

The offending prison, The State Correctional Institution at Cresson, kept mentally ill inmates isolated from other human beings, keeping them in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day in small, windowless rooms. The prisoners were let out only a few times a week for an hour, when they were allowed to shower, but were still kept in isolated spaces.

The practice of solitary confinement has been deemed cruel and unusual punishment by many in the legal and medical fields, but according to the American Civil Liberties Union, an estimated 80,000 people are subjected to the practice on any given day.

"Harsh conditions in violation of the Constitution"

The Department of Justice released a statement about Cresson, saying that the prisoners were denied basic necessities and subjected to "harsh and punitive" conditions.

"The department concluded that Cresson’s misuse of solitary confinement on prisoners with serious mental illness leads to serious harms, including mental decompensation, clinical depression, psychosis, self-mutilation, and suicide," the statement revealed.

The practices, the DOJ notes, are in violation of the Eight Amendment of the Constitution, which protects citizens from cruel and unusual punishment, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“These practices have serious public safety consequences because many of these individuals are returned to the community," the statement concluded.

Source: Think Progress

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