Solitary Confinement and Mental Illness Don't Mix

A lawsuit brought on behalf of mentally ill prison inmates states what should be the obvious: solitary confinement and mental illness make a combustible match.

After 13 inmate suicides and suicide attempts by isolated inmates in Massachussetts, including mentally ill inmate Mark Cunningham,lawyers have filed suit in federal court.

Mr. Cunningham’s case is one of 18 suicides and suicide attempts by inmates in solitary confinement described in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday by advocates for inmates and the mentally ill. They are seeking to prevent Massachusetts from placing mentally ill inmates in such segregated cells.

“We aren’t saying these folks should go free; we aren’t saying they shouldn’t be under high security conditions,” said Stanley J. Eichner, executive director of the Disability Law Center. But Mr. Eichner said putting prisoners in solitary conditions and denying them adequate mental health services was “literally the fatal flaw in the system.”

It's time to end the habit of putting mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement. It should be a no-brainer that confining a mentally ill person to 23 hours a day of isolation is going to be a death sentence, albeit one inflicted by his own hands.

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    You can (none / 0) (#1)
    by Che's Lounge on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 10:40:32 AM EST
    cull the herd all you want, using these tried and true methods. Our capitalistic fascist state is in decay, and we have ringside seats for the spectacle.

    Anyone who has gone through any sort of (none / 0) (#2)
    by Noor on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 11:42:55 AM EST
    psychiatric disease while living far away from friends and family knows just how devastating the effects of social isolation are when you're already under significant mental distress.  What you're describing, Jeralyn, adds up to cruel and unusual punishment in my book.  While I'm not a lawyer, I do consider myself a reasonable person.  If I can see the legal flaw in this treatment, I would think that the courts could too.

    TIticut Follies (none / 0) (#3)
    by squeaky on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 11:56:08 AM EST
    MA has a history of abuse toward the mentally ill, and they are not alone.

    Mentally ill people should not be under the 'care' of the department of corrections. They should be under the care of the department of health.

    Titicut Follies was banned because it showed how callus the treatment of mentally ill convicts could get. An inmate died while being force fed on film, while the guard callously dropped his cigarette ashes into the prisoners gruel.