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“When I testify in court, I am often asked: ‘What is the damage of long term solitary confinement?’ … Many prisoners with serious mental illness emerge from prison after years in solitary with much worse disability, and even stable individuals emerge with very serious psychiatric symptoms. The damage from isolation is dreadfully real.”
In the U.S., there are approximately 100,000 inmates held in supermax prisons and isolation units in other prisons and jails, confined to 8’ x 10’ windowless holes for 23-24 hours a day, sometimes for decades. Terry A. Kupers, one of the world’s leading experts on the effects of solitary confinement, takes us inside the cells and minds of some of the thousand inmates he’s interviewed while investigating prison conditions over the last 40 years. From prisoners ignored by staff for urgent medical and psychiatric needs to “cell extractions” where officers in riot gear spray a prisoner with immobilizing gas to subdue him, Kupers has seen the gamut of violence that inmates encounter daily. With an empathetic yet realistic voice, Kupers sheds light on the social purposes for disappearing disadvantaged people while providing constructive rehabilitative alternatives to solitary confinement.
Terry Allen Kupers is an award-winning psychiatrist and Professor Emeritus at The Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology. As one of the nation’s foremost experts on the mental health effects of solitary confinement, he has testified in over two dozen class action lawsuits about jail and prison conditions, the quality of mental health care “inside” and the effects of sexual abuse behind bars. He is a frequent consultant to the ACLU’s National Prison Project and Human Rights Watch and the author of Prison Madness.