How does solitary confinement impact people in prisons?

Shaeerah Tashfeen
3 min readMay 12, 2021

It is no secret that prisoners will try to indulge in extreme behavior if they won’t get along with each other but of course there are exceptions. The exclusion of social contact and interaction with other prisoners not only produces pain and suffering but also has harmful psychological consequences. It is known to cause extreme behaviors. But there is a strange finding that is not known to the general public like solitary confinement does not mean complete isolation and it has never existed in prison. Actually, the term “Solitary confinement” is used in correction practice, law, and scholarship just to point toward the condition of extreme. Never the complete isolation, nonetheless. Some authorities even use the word “the safety and security of the instruction” with not specifying the time for reasons only known to the administration. The definition is more focused on in-cell time where the prisoner is subjected to removal of normal, direct, and meaningful social contact (Haney, 2018)

Now, what is Normal, direct, and meaningful? “Normal” and “direct” contact simply means without bars, restrainers, security glass, or screen. “Meaningful” means in the environment where there are other activities are happening such as sports, leisure time, reading, gathering, or genuine social involvement.

There are many reasons why authorities put prisoners in solitary confinement. One such reason is to keep the house protective custody prisoner who cannot be safe elsewhere in the prison for many reasons.

Confinements have more harmful effects rather than positive reinforcement on the prisoners. Many aspects include that shows this could be more of negative stimuli than a positive one. Some of the effects such as anxiety, stress, depression, anguish, negative view towards society, reduction in verbalization, claustrophobia, suicide, loneliness, sleep disturbance, and obsessive disorders which undermine the rehab process (Justine A. Medrano, 2017). To add salt to the injury, some prisoners are not even told how long will they be staying in the confinement. It is also known to increase self-harm to get attention from the guards or authorities. Even the prisoners in double-cell suffer a negative impact.

(Haney, 2018)

As noted above these confinements are more likely to have a negative impact than a positive one on social well-being. These researches need to be understood in a practical context and actions must be taken against solitary confinement at least for the betterment of prisoners themselves (Haney, 2018)

Solitary confinement doesn’t work as a deterrent as already discussed above considering the harmful effects. Instead, there are other ways that could be used to improve the behavior such as The Behavior Correction Unit (BCU). These provide therapy based on the immunologic needs and provide an incentive to indulge them in a prison activity (Amber Oliver, 2018)


Amber Oliver, L. (2018). Program Proposal: Funding and Implementation Plan. ProQuest.

Haney, C. (2018). Restricting the Use of Solitary Confinement. Annual Reviews.

Justine A. Medrano, T. O. (2017). Solitary Confinement Exposure and Capital Inmate Misconduct. American Journal of Criminal Justice.