A Solitary Confinement

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Solitary confinement is described by the American dictionary as a type of incarceration in which an inmate is isolated from all human interaction for at least twenty-two hours per day, with the exception of prison attendants. The sentence's length is often in the range of years to decades.
Bryan Stevenson's book "only mercy" highlights the plight of prisoners serving prison sentences in solitary confinement in America and demonstrates that it is an epidemic. Stevenson brings to light the fact that by 2007, when the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) first became interested in the issue of the incarceration of children as young as 13 years in adult American prisons, there were at least 2500 children prisoners (Stevenson 200). This juvenile, he adds that they were serving life imprisonment with no provision for parole. Stevenson with his team observed that among the young inmates were imprisoned for non- homicide wrongs .the team argued in the Supreme Court that the act was not supported by the constitution with the effort bearing fruits in 2012 when the court made a ruling that the compulsory verdicts imposed on young children were not permitted. Despite this, many prosecutors in most states insisted that the ruling should not be applied to the prisoners who were still honoring their sentences.

Stevenson uses the example of Ian Manuel among other examples to depict the state of prisoners serving solitary confinement imprisonment. From the book among the challenges facing this solitary confined are:

Physical and emotional isolation

Through the story of Ian, we get to see the image of the cell in which the inmates are confined. We get to learn that the area of the cells is the size of a closet and they get meals through a small hole. In this confinement the inmate cant contact with other humans apart from the prison staff and it is often when receiving punishments. In America the spaces of confinement are often referred as the ‘‘hotbox” or the ‘‘hole, ’’ and the British often refers the cells as the ‘‘block’’ (Stevenson 212). When there are such extreme physical boundaries, it becomes challenging to share the emotions with others.

Suicide Cases and Sexual Harassment

Due to the lack of freedom to interact and share emotions with other humans most prisoners end up committing suicide Ian Manuel the reference in Stevenson’s book tried several times to commit suicide. The number of solitary confinement inmates who have committed suicide in America and the world at large is insurmountable. Young inmates and new inmates are usually the victims of sexual harassment .sexual harassment causes a lot of pain to inmates and is mostly among the cause of suicide among inmates especially the minors.

High costs

Constructing confinement area for only inmates is often very high approximately 2 to 3 times for collective prisoners thus costing the taxpayers hugely. Solitary confinement found its introduction in 1818 as a replacement for public flogging .the idea behind it was that it would allow the inmate to have a reflective time on his behavior but later solitary confinement would be founded on another basis such as


Rise in the slave trade by 1830 would have the majority of the solitarily confined inmates being slaves. Black people comprised the bigger percentage of the confined inmates. By 2010 Florida alone had sentenced 100 young prisoners to life imprisonment without parole with the number being comprised of blacks and Latinos (Stevenson 215). Stevenson continues to argue that one in every three black can be confined in a high-security prison while for the whites it is one in 15.

In solving the issue of racism as cause to the rise in solitary confinement advocating for the establishment of organs such as the EJI both public and private would be a great move into providing a solution to this issue. Key among the functions of this body should be to sensitize the public on racism, its effects and ways of eliminating racism. If the government can support this movement by giving them a platform on which they can offer the right knowledge to the public and also grant financial support, we would be a step ahead in alleviating racism.

Poor parenting

Judges cite poor parenting as the cause of the rise of solitary confinement. Referring to ‘‘Just Mercy’’ book by Bryan Stevenson, judges alleged that Manuel’s increasing criminal records was as a result of poor parenting and life lived in the streets. I would not want to blindly dismiss the view of the judges and prosecutors that poor parenting is a cause in increasingly solitary confinement but being very optimist I believe that there is a solution to every problem.

There is a solution to poor parenting as one of the causes of solitary confinement. To curb this challenge, the best idea should be to offer parental advice to the parents with the government spearheading the initiative. Establishment of children homes by the well-wishers and support of the same by individuals with a good heart and with mercy would be a great move to minimizing crime rates. With reduced crime rates the cases of solitary confinement will also go down.

Delayed review of the prisons law

From Stevenson experience, it is clear that the prisons law is not regularly reviewed. This law is evident when the equal justice initiative aired its concerns on solitary confinement for minors in 2007, but the ruling is made five years later in 2012 by the Supreme Court (Rademacher 1019). Worse still is that by 2012 most of the state prosecutors are arguing that the law should not be implemented to inmates who are still serving their term. In working out this challenge, it is a great idea to bring the human activist and the media on board to air the desire for a regular review of the prisons laws by the United States Congress.

How to solve

The best solution to eliminating solitary confinement for inmates would be for the government working with the human rights activist bodies such as the Equal Justice Initiative and the media to advocate for use using other imprisonment alternative instead of solitary confinement, though this initiative is not without costs. The costs will comprise of both monetary value and time factor. It will require a lot of cash to fund training to the members of the public and to invest in means of alleviating crimes such as children homes and orphanages. A lot of time is required for the planning and advocating implementation of the prisons law. I strongly believe that the effects of this move will be worth the cost. Such effects would increase peace and harmony; this is especially if racism is abolished.

If solitary confinement is eliminated and inmates offered parole opportunities the economy of the USA will grow from the inputs of the reformed inmates in the job market and economic sector. Though some people have argued that there is no difference between inmates in normal lockup settings and those in solitary confinement, the research is said to be conducted of stress levels between the two categories of inmates of stress levels and found to similar for two groups.

While those research might be true another group of researchers, have found that there are differences between solitary confinement and normal lockup setups. Inmates in normal prison settings are found to take minimal time to adapt to the environment compared to solitary confines. Stevenson brings to light the difference by the story of Ian who is excited with the freedom he gets to get out of the ‘’hotbox’’ for a photo session (Guenther 101). Other advantages of normal prison settings are minimized psychological and physical torture.


Solitary confinement as a way of imprisonment brings more harm than the intended good to the prisoners. The intention of imprisonment for a nation that values its citizen should be transformative and not destructive. Regardless of whether we know the individuals convicted of crimes and sentenced to solitary confinement, it is good to have for a moment just some mercy.

Works cited

Stevenson, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. Spiegel & Grau, 2014

Guenther, Lisa. Solitary confinement: Social death and its afterlives. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

Rademacher, Elizabeth M. "The beginning of the end: using Ohio's plan to eliminate juvenile solitary confinement as a model for statutory elimination of juvenile solitary confinement." Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 57 (2015): 1019.


September 11, 2021

Crime Literature



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