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Solitary Confinement – Effects, Practices, and Pathways toward Reform - Oxford Scholarship Online
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Solitary Confinement: Effects, Practices, and Pathways toward Reform

Jules Lobel and Peter Scharff Smith


The use of solitary confinement in prisons became common with the rise of the modern penitentiary during the first half of the nineteenth century and his since remained a feature of many prison systems all over the world. Solitary confinement is used for a panoply of different reasons although research tells us that these practices have widespread negative health effects. Besides the death penalty, it is arguably the most punitive and dangerous intervention available to state authorities in democratic nations. Nevertheless, in the United States there are currently an estimated 80,000 to 100,00 ... More

Keywords: prison, solitary confinement, torture, human rights, mental illness, criminal justice reform

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2019 Print ISBN-13: 9780190947927
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2019 DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190947927.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Jules Lobel, editor
Bessie McKee Walthour Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh Law School

Peter Scharff Smith, editor
Professor in Sociology of Law at the Institute for Criminology & Sociology of Law, the Faculty of Law, Oslo University

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Part I Two Centuries of Solitary Confinement

6 Not Isolating Isolation

Judith Resnik*

Part II Mind, Body, and Soul— The Harms and Experience of Solitary Confinement

9 First Do No Harm

Brie Williams* and Cyrus Ahalt**

13 Use of Animals to Study the Neurobiological Effects of Isolation

Michael J. Zigmond* and Richard Jay Smeyne**

14 Sharing Experiences of Solitary Confinement—Prisoners and Staff

Robert King,* Dolores Canales,** Jack Morris,† and Armondo Sosa‡

Part III Prison reform, prison litigation, and human rights

16 Resisting Supermax

Jamie Bennett*

20 Solitary Confinement in Canada

Joseph J. Arvay and Alison M. Latimer*

21 “Loneliness Is a Destroyer of Humanity”1

Amy Fettig* and David C. Fathi**

End Matter