Last month I listened to an interview on American Public Media’s The Story with Brian Nelson, a convicted murderer who had spent 12 years in solitary confinement in a prison in Illinois. I could think of no better word to describe such a punishment than torture. Listen to that interview here.
Similarly, one of my former theology professors at Saint Anselm College, R. Ward Holder, has co-authored a piece about the theological troubles of solitary confinement and efforts in the Presbyterian Church to put an end to the practice:
Second, the church is realizing both that solitary confinement can be used as an instrument of torture, and that American political leaders and prison officials are complicit in this torture. While America is home to only five percent of the world’s population, it has 25 percent of its prisoners and the vast majority of prisoners in long-term solitary confinement. Both our common humanity and our obedience to God cry out against this affront, and demand our Christian witness.
The resolution calls for three actions: 1) for state and federal governments to limit the use and harm of solitary confinement and address the mental health needs of prisoners; 2) for the president to sign and the Senate to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture; and 3) for Presbyterians to participate in anti-torture efforts.
Read the full statement here.
Do you think solitary confinement in torture? Is interaction with other human beings a basic human right? If so, does that right extend to prisoners?