Society depends on mental health professionals to recognize mental torture and speak to the impacts of solitary confinement on prisoners and their loved ones.
To learn more about the psychological effects of solitary confinement, listen to a recent interview with psychologist and expert withness Terry Kupers in the first hour of The Sunday Show with Philip Maldari (July 7th, 2013, 9 AM on KPFA Radio).
To offer your professional expertise to address the human rights abuses that prisoners face in solitary confinement, add your signature to the statement below.
Mental Health Organizations and Professionals Statement
The letter below and signatures will be shared with Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, as well as Tom Amiano, CA State Senator and chairperson of hearings on Solitary Confinement.
To sign this letter and stand against abuses of solitary confinement in California prisons, please send the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org
Individuals signing (not representing affiliated organizations/employers):
Mental health professional degrees and certifications,
Email address (will be not be made public)
Name of Organization
City and State
Contact email (will not be made public)
By signing this statement, we declare our support for the California Prisoner Hunger Strikers’ Five Core Demands*, especially ending the practice of indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons. We believe long-term solitary confinement is torturous punishment and has no redeeming features. As mental health professionals and organizations, we recognize that the public looks to us to understand the mental health impacts of solitary confinement, and to oppose the psychologically torturous treatment of people in prison.
The psychological deterioration caused by long-term solitary confinement is profoundly negative and long-lasting, even for people who are otherwise mentally resilient. The impacts of long-term solitary confinement—hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, depression, hypersensitivity to external simuli, derealization, several kinds of social dysfunction, and more—are well documented by researchers, and are completely avoidable. There is no excuse for indefinite solitary confinement. It is especially harmful to people who already struggle with mental health issues, and to young adults still developing their psychological capacities.
We also recognize that impacts from California’s use of indefinite solitary confinement extend far beyond imprisoned people themselves, affecting their families, loved ones, friends, and communities. As incarceration rates and the use of solitary confinement have risen in California, the pain endured by loved ones of prisoners has grown.
We also believe that the use of long-term solitary confinement is an unacceptable use of public funds. It is indefensible in light of the great need that exists for investments in community mental health, education, and other services that both help prevent violence and increase the well-being of families and communities.
As mental health professionals, we and our organizations have a moral and ethical responsibility to stand for an end to indefinite solitary confinement, because of our professional charge and commitment toward the well-being and mental health of individuals, families, and communities. To hold back and not insist on changing what we know to be destructive practices is inconsistent with our charge.
We call on fellow psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors, and other mental health practitioners to join the struggle to end indefinite solitary confinement, and to transform the institution to support the rehabilitation of men and women who have been caught up in the criminal legal system. We support the core demands being made by prisoners living in solitary confinement and urge the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and Governor Jerry Brown to enter into good-faith and accountable negotiations with them and their representatives.
* The Five Core Demands of the California Prisoner Hunger Strikers include, briefly:
- Eliminate group punishments to address individual inmates rule violations.
- Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria.
- Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement.
- Provide adequate and nutritious food.
- Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.
More information about the prisoners’ demands is online at https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/the-prisoners-demands-2/