November 10, 2009 · 12:16 PM
Our prisons are wastelands for the mentally ill. The segregated units where many are housed are numerous tiers of dingy, claustrophobic cells. Places where these people have only their own hallucinations and their own voices as company. There is a whole lot going on with them other than criminality and part of their problems might be their living conditions.
Isolation has a toxic effect on people. They become hypersensitive to noise and obsessed with their own strange thoughts, often suffering from feelings of panic and fear of suffocation. When this is the effect on normal people, imagine what it does to those already with mental problems.
Psychiatric experts have said that they can judge the quality of a prison’s mental health program by simply visiting its solitary confinement units. They are the dumping grounds for the mentally ill. Prisons are unable to deal with them and rely heavily on isolation to fix the complex problems. The mentally ill belong in mental facilities or special housing units where they can function normally with proper medication and supervision, not in prisons.