Think about a US Supermax prison. Some extracts from an article regarding it:
The Psychological Effects of Supermax Prisons
…US supermax prions, like their Dutch counterparts, but perhaps more intensely so, operate under the same incapacitating conditions of security. They have little contact with staff, spend 23 hours a day confined to their cell, and have most materials, such as food trays, medical supplies, and library materials, delivered directly to their cell. Inmates are escorted shackled and cuffed, accompanied by 4-man escorts. The Secure Housing Unit at Pelican Bay Prison in California, for instance, denies its inmates access to psychiatric and specialized medical care, confines inmates to cells for 22-23 hours per day, and withholds all opportunities for congregate dining and congregate exercising periods. The SHU also denies inmates access to rehabilitative and vocational programs, and religious services. There are also reports from researchers that prisoners housed in SHU’s such as those in Pelican Bay are intermittently tortured, using methods such as forced-cell-extraction, fire-hosing, hog-tying, beating under restraints, threats against family, sensory deprivation, and staged fighting for officers’ entertainment (Prison Activist Resource Center, 1998). On a regular basis, diabetics will go without medication, cells will remain unheated in the winter months, mail will be illegally censored, and broken toilets will be left unfixed.
A study by Craig Haney (2003), who researched conditions at Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (SHU), evinced that the psychological effects of supermax confinement can induce appetite and sleep disturbances, panic attacks, anxiety, uncontrollable rage, hallucinations, and self-mutilations, some of which occur from the extreme sensory deprivation of such conditions. (It has been speculated that one of the factors behind the Kingston Penitentiary riot in 1971 was that prisoners were restricted from “personalizing” their cell-space, or decorating their living environments, creating an environment akin to sensory deprivation or loss of control.) In addition to Haney’s medical symptoms there are subtler cognitive, attitudinal, or homeostatic alterations incurred. Below is a comprehensive inventory of the documented effects from psychiatric reports and research into supermax confinement:
*]ruminations (compulsive preoccupations, duress, or strain produced by indecision)
*]a sense of impending doom
*]suicidal ideation and suicide attempts
The kind of inmates staff may begin to encounter in supermax prisons include those suffering from suicidal behaviour, acute or chronic psychosis, or those externalizing their pent-up aggression by destroying property (such as toilets), and attacking, stabbing, or masturbating on staff. Haney also draws striking parallels between supermax inmates and torture victims, especially those displaying Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and those unfortunate to be subjected to so-called ‘deprivation and constraint’ torture techniques" (132).
Also, see this article from the American Journal of Public Health (reprinted at the National Institutes of Health): Pathological Effects of the Supermaximum Prison
Yet, these prisons are there for a reason: the State perceives that there is no other way to prevent these prisoners from being a clear and present danger to the safety of other prisoners or to staff.
But if we classify even properly and professionally done “waterboarding” (as described above) as unacceptable torture, surely, using the same criteria, we would have to classify Supermax prisons, like Pelican Bay, California, as being far worse torture.
Is national media attention being applied to developing some viable alternative to Supermax? Or does nobody care…