Solitary Confinement Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Solitary Confinement, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Solitary Confinement?

(n) Solitary confinement is the punishment imposed on a person whereby he is kept in isolation from the external world whether or not kept in a designated jail. Solitary confinement is resorted when a person is expected to cause problem when permitted to communicate with others

History and Definition of Solitary Confinement

Solitary confinement, also known as "segregation" or "isolation", is the practice of isolating an incarcerated person in a cell for 22-24 hours a day with little to no human contact or interaction. It is used as a form of punishment or to protect other inmates from a dangerous person. Solitary confinement has been used in various forms throughout history, with the first documented use dating back to the early 19th century in the United States.

The use of solitary confinement has been criticized by human rights organizations, medical professionals, and legal experts due to its detrimental effects on mental health. Prolonged isolation can lead to anxiety, depression, hallucinations, and even suicide. In recent years, there have been efforts to limit the use of solitary confinement in prisons and detention centers.

Examples of Solitary Confinement

  1. A prisoner who is considered a danger to others is placed in solitary confinement for weeks at a time.
  2. An inmate who speaks out against the prison conditions is put in solitary confinement as punishment.
  3. A person in immigration detention who is considered a flight risk is placed in solitary confinement while awaiting deportation.
  4. A prisoner with a mental illness is put in solitary confinement as a form of "treatment".
  5. A detainee is placed in solitary confinement as a retaliatory measure for reporting abuse by a guard.

Legal Terms Related to Solitary Confinement

  1. Segregation - the practice of separating individuals from the general population in a correctional or detention facility for the purpose of safety or punishment.
  2. Protective custody - the practice of separating an incarcerated person from the general population to protect them from harm.
  3. Supermax prison - a facility designed to hold the most dangerous and disruptive incarcerated individuals in solitary confinement for extended periods.