Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2023

Document Type

Honors Project

University Scholars Director

Christine Chaney

First Advisor/Committee Member

Phillip Baker


Solitary confinment, health, isolation, incarceration, bioethics, social, humanity


This paper will define and examine the use of solitary confinement within the United States prison system and review its mental, physical, and social impacts. As social creatures, human mental and physical well-being depends on meaningful social interactions absent in segregation units. As it currently stands, vulnerable populations, including racial minorities, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and those with developmental disabilities or psychological disorders, are at risk of irrevocable harm and abuse within these facilities from staff as well as other inmates. With a rotating 80,000 inmates held in solitary confinement every day, the current structure of the prison system deemphasizes rehabilitation and favors unjust and unnecessary punishment. The topic of solitary confinement cannot be explored through science alone but through an interdisciplinary literature review of primary sources in physiology, neurobiology, psychology, law, sociology, political science, and history. With this approach, proper attention can also be given to the experiences of those caught in this system. The overwhelming evidence of the inefficacy of solitary confinement as a method to solve the institutionally created issue of mass incarceration further punctuates the need for policy reform and systematic change against the root causes of exploitation and punitive segregation.

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