The enduring appeal of solitary confinement as an option is easy to understand. It seems to make sense that removing troublesome criminals from the general population might deter bad behavior, or at least make it easier to manage.
But that isn’t what the evidence suggests. States that have reduced solitary confinement have seen no rise in prison violence. Furthermore, prisoners who are held in solitary often display worse behavior when they are finally released from it. Mentally ill patient need treatment. Solitary confinement is the exact opposite of treatment.
“Reducing long-term solitary confinement is a benefit in a lot of ways,” said Leslie Walker, executive director of Prisoners’ Legal Services. “Violence in prison goes down, and we’re not torturing people in boxes.”