The trend towards moving away from isolating people in prisons and jails is incredibly heartening. As Dr. Haney notes, this is an issue that sometimes leads to different perspectives among different groups of people. However, it has been so wonderful to see the number of people who have been willing to reconsider their positions and implement humane changes.
This is an issue that should elicit serious reflection among everyone, especially those advocating for changes. If people advocating for changes are not also seriously concerned and troubled about the possible negative outcomes of these kinds of changes, they are not seriously engaged with the issue. People can get seriously hurt and bad outcomes can occur, particularly in the early stages of implementing a new program. But in the long-term, treating people humanely is far likelier to lead to good outcomes than leaving people alone for months on end.
There was recently an article about a gentleman who was very seriously unwell and who gouged his eyes out while in custody. Without knowing the full circumstances of this situation, I think it is fair to say that everyone involved would wish it had gone another way. No human being should be so driven to despair, lack of reality or deprived of needed social supports that he should be moved to gouge out his own eyes. There is an opportunity to do better.
This is a tough issue and there are no villains in the larger solitary confinement discussion. I care about correctional staff and as a regular citizen who supports changes along with many others, I worry and reflect on the negative possible outcomes of humane changes. But cases like this one underscore the reality that sometimes situations are so bad that simply doing nothing about them in and of itself causes harm. Change can be hard, but sometimes things absolutely need to change. Figuring out how to change them takes teamwork, creativity, and learning from those who have already innovated and come up with different approaches. This is a very hopeful time and it is exciting to watch these good developments alongside the really tragic and heartbreaking stories.
Comments are closed.