Recent Study Shows Women Face Unique Harm from Solitary Confinement

The American Civil Liberties Union conducted a study and consequently released a report concerning the use of solitary confinement on female prisoners. The report made it extremely clear that isolation is a punishment that should only be used in situations where no other consequence will suffice. Solitary confinement should be reserved for cases where a prisoner is an active threat to the safety of other people. The study also shows that the unique issues faced by women put them in a position of additional harm than men who are placed in solitary confinement.

The report used recent data to determine that between 80,000 and 100,000 prisoners, both male and female, in the United States that are housed in solitary confinement.

The generalized effects of solitary confinement on the human mind have been well studied in previous years. Previous studies have also shown that the majority of inmates who are placed in solitary confinement are isolated due to behaviors that are caused by mental illness. Other studies have shown that being in solitary confinement can make the symptoms of mentally ill patients worse. However, there has been very little data collected that is specifically focused on the female jail and prison population.

Current estimates approximate that the number of women that are incarcerated annually. While they are incarcerated, women face problems that are gender specific. The majority of sexual abuse victims are women. Being in solitary confinement can cause those who have been victims of sexual abuse to relive their victimization. This is partially because prisoners who are in solitary confinement are watched on a constant basis, even at times that should be private, like using the restroom and showering.

Many times, women who are in solitary confinement are under the supervision of a male guard, without another female present. This practice directly violates the Prison Rape Elimination Act that prohibits a guard of the opposite sex from searching a nude prisoner. Even though this act is in place, the practice still continues, which dramatically increases the possibility of sexual misconduct from staff.