Solitary Confinement’s “Horrible Psychology”: A Case of Permanent Damage?


As 30,000 California inmates continue a hunger strike, Wired explores what it calls the “horrible psychology of solitary confinement.” Some psychologists say it is “such an anathema to human needs that it often drives prisoners mad.” In isolation, people become anxious and angry, prone to hallucinations and wild mood swings, and unable to control their impulses. “What we've found is that a series of symptoms occur almost universally. They are so common that it's something of a syndrome,” said psychiatrist Terry Kupers of the Wright Institute, a prominent critic of solitary confinement. “I'm afraid we're talking about permanent damage.” California holds 4,500 inmates in solitary. More than 80,000 U.S. prisoners are housed this way, more than in any other democratic nation.

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