Thursday, October 13, 2011

Solitary Confinement

I've discovered a new indulgence.
Thanks to Netflix (streaming) I have an endless supply of them. 

One on Solitary Confinement was especially interesting (and by "interesting", I mean disturbing) as I sometimes feel I will go crazy when I am home alone for a day or two at a time without human interaction.  The men in this particular prison go years alone at times until they can "prove" they deserve to re-enter the regular prison population.  That right there is disturbing enough.  Imagine working toward the goal of returning to "regular prison".

But these guys spend 23 hours a day in alone in a small cell.  Their meals come in through small slits in the door. Once a day, they get moved to an exercise room where they spend an hour alone.  They never get to go outside, though each cell has a small window through which the sky can be viewed .  The guards talk to them as little as possible.  No one touches them except to handcuff them. They have to "earn" priviledges such as books and TVs.

They find creative ways to communicate with the other inmates... such as slipping notes into little pockets they carve in the covers of the library books or using a string to dangle a note to a cell below.  It doesn't matter to them who answers... they crave human interaction so desperately- they are happy for a word from ANYONE.  Sometimes they act out just for the attention- verbal and physical, even though it means they will lose the priviledges they have already earned.  :-(

After watching the documentary, I have decided that I oppose long-term solitary confinement as a reform technique. A day or two.  Maybe a week.  After that, I believe serious mental illness sets in.

Loneliness hurts.  And it hurts worse the longer it persists. 

And they said something interesting in the documentary that I've been turning over in my mind. They said loneliness is painful for a purpose.  It is nature's way (and by "nature" they mean God) of making people reach out to other people.  Because it is not good for us to be alone.  We need each other to thrive.