Prolonged Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons Must End
We owe a debt of gratitude to the prisoners at the Pelican Bay State Prison in California who were on a hunger strike for several weeks. They have raised the issue of inhumane conditions in prisons across the nation, particularly the thousands of prisoners who are held in prolonged solitary confinement which we know can cause long-term psychological damage.
We are well aware that these conditions exist in many Texas prisons. For example, on Texas death row prisoners are held in solitary confinement for many years until they are executed. These inhumane conditions cause some prisoners to go crazy, some to commit suicide, and some to give up their appeals because they no longer want to live.
In Texas, solitary confinement normally means that the prisoner held in a tiny 6 X 10 foot cell for 23 hours a day. He cannot participate in group recreation, church services or work programs. This is not good for the prisoner or for society in general.
There is no doubt in my mind that prolonged solitary confinement is “cruel and unusual punishment” and should be prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.
I am extremely disappointed that we allow these conditions to exist and our politicians are silent on the issue. The U.S. is not the civilized nation that we would like others to think we are.
I call on all citizens to speak out loudly and bring these inhumane conditions to an end.
David Atwood, President
Houston Peace and Justice Center
August 1, 2011