“Why Solitary Confinement Is The Worst Kind Of Psychological Torture” by George Dvosky at io9 outlines how solitary confinement came into use with the best of intentions, but is now understood to cause, in some cases, irreparable psychological damage.
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There may be as many as 80,000 American prisoners currently locked-up in a SHU, or segregated housing unit. Solitary confinement in a SHU can cause irreversible psychological effects in as little as 15 days. Here’s what social isolation does to your brain, and why it should be considered torture.
There’s no universal definition for solitary confinement, but the United Nations describes it as any regime where an inmate is held in isolation from others, except guards, for at least 22 hours a day. Some jurisdictions allow prisoners out of their cells for one hour of solitary exercise each day.