Conservative columnist George Will has weighed in on solitary confinement, writing that tens of thousands of U.S. prison inmates are kept in protracted solitary confinement that arguably constitutes torture and probably violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishments." Will says U.S. mass incarceration "means a perpetual crisis of prisoners re-entering society," and estimates that 25,000 inmates in federal and state "supermax" prisons are in long-term solitary, and perhaps 80,000 others in isolation sections in regular prisons.
"Clearly, solitary confinement involves much more than the isolation of incorrigibly violent individuals for the protection of other inmates or prison personnel," Will says. He writes, "The mental pain of solitary confinement is crippling: Brain studies reveal durable impairments and abnormalities in individuals denied social interaction. Plainly put, prisoners often lose their minds." The columnist says that solitary confinement costs about three times as much per inmate as in normal prisons and concludes that, "most persons now in solitary confinement will someday be back on America's streets, some of them rendered psychotic by what are called correctional institutions."