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The Inhumane Practice of Solitary Confinement

April 12 (Bloomberg) -- The use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and detention centers has broken the bounds of reason and decency. The federal government reported last month that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency routinely holds hundreds of immigrants in solitary confinement -- even though the inmates are detained on civil charges. The news underscored the continued outlier status of the U.S., which subjects tens of thousands of inmates, including the nonviolent, to a practice that much of the world regards as torture.

Solitary confinement, wrote Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war, “crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.” Long-term isolation impairs the brain, which is why as far back as 1890 the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that it led to insanity and suicide in some inmates, “while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community.”