Solitary Confinement Drives Inmates Insane

Anthony Graves is a former inmate, who was on death row. For the majority of the 12 years he was there he lived in what he described as an 8 foot by 12 foot cage. He only was able to see the outside world by standing on top of his mattress and peering out a window. He would spend between 22 and 24 hours each day inside the same room.

Graves served more than 18 years in prison in Texas before he was exonerated of all his crimes in 2010. He said that solitary confinement does only one thing: it breaks the will of a man to live and he ends up a different person. Graves is speaking before a congressional hearing that was brought about due to a lawsuit in California that wants to change prison policy.

Graves told the subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee that solitary confinement was inhumane and is driving men to be insane. Studies done have indicated that close to one third of prisoners living in solitary confinement suffer from some sort of mental illness and nearly 50% of suicides that take place in prison are prisoners who are in solitary confinement.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has sued the state of California for isolating inmates who are suspected to have gang affiliations. The suit is focused on 300 inmates at Pelican Bay Prison who have been held for over ten years. The director of Federal Prisons said the inmates were placed in solitary only to protect the overall prison population.

Graves said he is still scared by solitary confinement and has trouble sleeping. He also often cries during the night. He ended his talk to the subcommittee by saying American citizens are driving other American citizens crazy.