Solitary confinement is not inhumane.

That’s the position held by the European Court of Human Rights as of this week.

When I first heard that the court had cleared the way for Hamza’s extradition to the US, I presumed he would face the death penalty and thus wondered how this was consistent with the European Bill of Human Rights’ complete condemnation of this form of punishment. But whilst that is deemed to be too ‘inhumane’ and ‘degrading’ to be an excusable punishment for any human in any circumstance, they deny the same applies to the prospect of life imprisonment alone in a windowless room for 23 hours a day with no opportunities for any form of expression or real human contact. Or, in other words, rendering your existence entirely meaningless and forcing it to extend well into the future is fine, and definitely not torture. But executing such people? That would be vile.

Say they deserve such treatment. Say it is justified with reference to the common good. I will most likely wish to fight you on either of those grounds. But to say you are with me in standing against inhumane treatment, before proceeding to endorse a prison facility like this, is so sickening as to barely require refutation.


2 thoughts on “Solitary confinement is not inhumane.

  1. See, I’d be with you, except that in most cases, 23 hours-per-day solitary confinement is a temporary, not permanent, sentence. Generally, solitary confinement is used A) for those already in prison who have shown themselves to threaten stability in a correctional facility, B) for those incoming prisoners who have been or may present a threat to the security of themselves (i.e. suicide watch) or others in the institution (i.e. picking fights with other inmates), or C) as additional punishment for those who have committed particularly heinous crimes (i.e. mass murderers). Now, I don’t agree with (C) for its obvious favoring of punishment over rehabilitation, but it does make at least a certain amount of logical sense if you are one who believes the opposite. Meanwhile, the first two seem like pretty good reasons to sequester someone who is being rehabilitated, at least in the short-term.

    I tend to think there are three very general ways of viewing prison: punishment, rehabilitation, or some combination thereof. I also think most of my fellow Americans see prison as the latter. That being the case, I think it far less outrageous to house one in solitary confinement than to execute them. Why? Because executions are permanent. I’d much rather someone be in solitary for a decade and be found not guilty when new evidence arises rather than executing an innocent person.

  2. Pingback: Kudos to the state of Connecticut for killing the death penalty | Saint Petersblog

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