Essay Sample on Solitary Confinement and Mental Health in the U.S

Published: 2023-03-17
Essay Sample on Solitary Confinement and Mental Health in the U.S
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  United States Penal system Mental health
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1709 words
15 min read

Solitary confinement refers to the social and physical isolation of a person in one cell for hours, days and spending other time in a cage or a barren yard. The United States of America (USA) has the largest number of people confined in their prison department. The population of people in prison is estimated to be 25 per cent. The high percentage means for every 100,000 individuals, 754 are inmates. But, generally, most Western countries have recorded an upsurge in the level of incarceration. The reason for the increased level of incarceration in the USA is its minimal expenditure on social welfare programs. Secondly, the country experiences a high crime rate. Other factors that contribute to the high rate of incarceration are a significant number of single-parenthood individuals and a high percentage of divorce rates (Weiss, & MacKenzie, 2010).

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There is a great difference in the rate of incarceration between USA and the Netherlands. The difference is brought about by variety in sentencing policies and correctional strategies put in place by these countries. Secondly, what is considered a crime or the classification of crimes and an offence differ in different countries. Some countries like the Netherlands do not include specific populations when subjecting them to incarceration, for instance, immigrants held in detention, mentally challenged offenders, juveniles, and detainees. While in the USA, incarcerated people include offenders located in privately operated facilities, state or federal prisons, and local jails. But, prisoners found in juvenile facilities and military immigration are not factored in. A significant portion of population incarcerated is composed of mentally ill individuals; how these people are treated differ from one country to another (Subramanian, & Shames, 2014). Here, we are focusing on discussing solitary confinement and mental health in the USA and Netherlands. Moreover, we are looking at the effects of solitary confinement on psychiatric patients, and ways of reducing crime rate and incarceration in the U.S.


The country of Netherlands has designed an excellent way of helping mentally ill offenders. The ministry of justice has forensic care institution for dealing with mentally ill offenders. The Netherlands used a multiple-point scale to evaluate criminal responsibility. The criminal offenders are not liable to any prosecution until they are sent to a special hospital for a mental evaluation. They are admitted for treatment if there is a link between the mental disorder and the criminal act. A team of health professionals such as a lawyer, behavioral therapists, social worker, psychologists, and psychiatrists are sent to evaluate the mental health of patients. But, in the U.S, nothing is done to the offenders (Subramanian, & Shames, 2014).

Prisoners are treated very well in the Netherlands, for instance, as part of a rehabilitation scheme, they are offered keys to their cells that enable them to let themselves in and out at a specific time. Moreover, they are supplied with a digital screen which they can use to request for groceries and arrange for an appointment with prison staff and fellow prisoners. The goal of this approach is to teach prisoners to be more responsible (Bulman, 2017).

The U.S government has the highest number of people with mental illness in extreme isolation. These people do not receive adequate treatment which is against U.S constitution. Prisoners who do not receive adequate treatment are put in solitary confinement. They suffer from emotional and psychological consequences such as suicidal tendencies and self-harm. In an attempt to lessen their psychological tension, prisoners in solitary confinement engaged in illegal drugs such as marijuana. These individuals are hindered from assessing treatment or substance abuse therapy.

Some criminological theories explain U.S inability to reduce the crime rate. For instance, social disorganization theory seeks to narrate community increase in crime rate. It explains that community with a high crime rate is characterized by great family disruption like single-parent families and high divorce rate. Moreover, a community with high residential movement, high multiunit apartments and economically deprived has a high crime rate. Strain theory explains that people engage in crime because of the stress they experience, which make them involved in crime. The biological theory asserts that genetic or hereditary factors are linked to crime.


The Implication of Solitary Confinement and Mental Health in the United States

Solitary confinement has led to a massive amount of negative impacts on the health of U.S citizens. Most people faced so many challenges and difficulty regarding social interaction. Moreover, they have difficulty regulating their emotions and react violently and aggressively to emotions. Also, when they are released from prison, they have hardship in managing little stress. Isolation has resulted in complete stoppage of any form of rehabilitative activity among the U.S citizens. Prisoners from solitary confinement are denied from furthering their education and vocational training provided in prisons.

According to Pilkington (2018), over 4000 U.S citizens with serious mental illness are located within solitary cells. When these people with mental illness are held in solitary confinement, their health deteriorates. These people inflict self-harm on themselves seven times as compared with the members of the general population. Moreover, they experience multiple psychological scars. Another adverse effect of solitary confinement is the financial implication. It is estimated that the government spend $78000 for every single prisoner. This is three times more expensive as compared to holding a prisoner in general prison unit.

Solitary confinement is characterized by unstructured days, absence of meaningful social contact, and a lot of stress which intensify the symptoms of mental illness for the offenders. Individual suffering from mental illness and confined in solitary cells often leads to permanent disabling. Isolation leads to adverse psychological effects on an individual; some of the impacts are psychosis, paranoia, obsessive thoughts, perceptual distortions, cognitive disturbances, anger, depression, and anxiety.

Professional health workers cannot entirely reduce the harm faced by mental health patients in solitary confinement. Mental health patients are only restricted to the psychotropic form of medication. The patients are unable to meet with a clinician in private because during their mental health rounds, they only stop in front of the cell and enquire how the patient is doing. There are inadequate resources and policies which restrict prisoners to remain in their cell and make them not to meet most of their rights. For instance, they are inaccessible to therapeutic interventions, life-skill-enhancing activities, recreational, structured educational, group therapy, and Individual therapy (Metzner & Fellner, 2010).

Strategies Used To Reduce Effects of Solitary Confinement

The U.S should strive to reduce the devastating effects of solitary confinement on citizens by adopting measures used by the Netherlands and other Western democratic countries like Germany. Netherlands has applied the following measures which should be replicated by the U.S justice Department.

Normalize the Conditions within the Prison Department

The Netherlands has improved the conditions of the prison department by enhancing regular treatment and inspection of health of prisoners. Secondly, the country has embarked on designing prisoners housing units to promote comfort. The objective of this normalization is to lower the negative consequences of incarceration and increase the probability of prisoners to be rehabilitated and reintegrated to the community.

Consideration of Young Offenders as a Special Population

Young offenders should be treated as juveniles based since their developmental stage and related needs are similar. Incarcerated young individuals are treated separately in comparison to older adults in prisons. The U.S government should improve on the incarceration of young adults by enabling them to access vocational training, social, education, and all forms of treatments as part of developmental needs.

Adopt the Disciplinary Structures and Broaden the Menu of Sanctions

As opposed to solitary confinement, Germany and Netherlands prisons apply multidisciplinary measures to sanction offenders. The countries apply solitary confinement only for a few hours or days; unlike U.S. Other measures adopted by these countries are limited movements and lowering other privileges enjoyed by prisoners. The U.S should adopt these measures instead of incarceration.

Expanding Community-Based Sanctions

Netherlands and Germany mainly use community-based sanctions to deter most of the offenses. The countries also apply an extensively non-custodial sanctions. The objective of these options is to prevent most offenders from entering prisons and possibly solitary confinements. The U.S government should use all forms of community-based sanctions such as specialty courts, community services, and parole supervision to fines, and probation appropriately.

Expanding Prosecutorial Discretion to Divert Offenders

Germany and Netherlands used prosecutorial diversion when dealing with offenders. All forms of offences are diverted, from dangerous criminals; to small offenses, this makes these countries to divert a significant number of criminal offences. The U.S also practice prosecutorial diversion, but, they only restrict to individuals who engage in offences for the first time. Moreover, it is limited to special people like those addicted to drugs and mentally ill persons. The U.S criminal justice should consider applying diversionary to serious criminals to reduce the rate of incarceration and amount of people subjected to negative effects of criminal justice. If the U.S can institute validated risk and risk assessment together with high-quality and community intervention, it would serve to divert criminals and hinder them from being put in incarceration.


The U.S has the highest crime rate as compared with other countries in western democracies; the increased crime rate is linked to many factors. Some of the factors that are attributed to crime rate include family disruption such as single parenthood and high divorce rate. Other factors are stress, hereditary factors, and social disorganization. The upsurge in criminals has increased detention rate and admission of people into solitary confinement cells. Solitary confinements have promoted devastating impacts on criminals, specifically mental health offenders. It has led to an increase in suicidal tendencies, hospital admission, and difficulty in the regulation of social interaction, anger, and emotions. Moreover, inmates cannot receive therapeutic interventions, life-skill-enhancing activities, recreational, structured educational, group therapy, and Individual therapy. Some western democracies have put strategies that have succeeded in reducing crime rate and solitary confinement which should be applied by the USA. These measures are normalizing conditions in prison departments, consideration of young offenders as a special population, adopting disciplinary measures and expanding the menu of sanctions, broadening community-based sanctions, and strengthening prosecutorial discretion to divert offenders.


Bulman, M. (2017). Dutch prisons giving inmates keys to their cells. Retrieved from The Independent website:

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