What is Solitary Confinement Like? | Philosophy Tube
There are tens of thousands, of people in solitary confinement all, around the world there, may even be a prison using it not far away from where you are right now and the experiences. Of prisoners in solitary are completely. Changing how, we think about. The human mind. Part. One all. Alone. For a long time people in the Western philosophical tradition have said that human minds are, separate. 100, percent discrete. Individuals. Sealed-off, units, you. Can find ideas like this in thinkers like Rene Descartes was area code even Aristotle who said man is a political creature and one whose nature is to live with others thought, that human beings were, separate, from each other and the world we, enjoy, socializing. Need socializing. Maybe but still there's. That gap I'm not gonna get too deep into this today but that model of the individual, self isolated, from others it's, the theory of mind that capitalism, assumes, and it was part of what inspired a lot of early proponents, of solitary, confinement take somebody who's done wrong seal, them away somewhere, where they can reflect have, a chat with their ideal self and hopefully, come out better it, almost sounds, humane more, humane at least than, thumbscrews. Burning. Them in public or executions. Surely. It's, difficult, to know exactly how, many people are being held, in solitary confinement today, in the United States all the estimates I've seen are measured in tens of thousands, but, disagreements. About definitions, as well as changing, definitions, and policies, and Court decisions reporting. And recording, errors and different, counting, procedures, have led to a lack of reliable, and valid data, on Supermax, issues, also. Sometimes, people are subjected. To what looks an awful lot like solitary, confinement but isn't officially, called that they, call it the secure, housing unit, or the control, unit, or preventative. Detention, in my, country the Department of Justice has said that we don't do solitary confinement and yet, a report in 2017. By Her Majesty's Inspectorate of prisons said that not only are we doing it we're even doing it to children however, many people are being held in solitary though and whatever its legal, definition, in her book solitary, confinement falsely, professor Lisa gun fair argues that they almost invariably. Don't, come. Out better they are harmed by the experience, of course as well as a general unpleasantness, of being locked up they can also hallucinate. Become, disoriented. Distressed.
Depressed. And. Psychotic. Suicidal. Even but, even beyond, that, human. Being is kept in solitary can, actually lose their minds, and their ability to interpret, their, own experiences. There, are many ways to destroy, a person, but. One of the simplest and most devastating, is, through prolonged solitary, confinement. Deprived. Of meaningful, human interaction, otherwise, healthy, prisoners. Become unhinged. They. See things that do not exist and, they, fail to see things that do their. Sense of their own bodies even the fundamental, capacity, to feel pain, and distinguish. Their own pain from that of others erodes. To the point where they're no longer sure if they're being harmed, or harming, themselves and. Gotha. Says that's because we've been wrong about, minds. All this time when, not actually. Discrete, individuals, at least not as much as we thought we're. A network we're, not a hive mind obviously but if we were 100, percent separate. And we wouldn't expect solitary to completely, destroy somebody's, capacity, for meaningful experience, in quite the way that it can she. Says in order to explain, what it does to a human being we're, gonna need an entirely, new theory. Of mind, part, two, phenomenology. Gopher. Begins with the testimony, of survivors. Of solitary confinement so, let's hear some that we want there are a little bit disturbing but have a listen and see what you can spot here, are the words of Jack Henry Abbott who was imprisoned in solitary confinement and, complete. Darkness, I heard. Someone, screaming. Far, away. And. It, was me, I. Fell. Against. The wall and as if it were a catapult, was, hurled, across, the cell to the opposite wall back, and forth I reeled, from, the door to the walls. Screaming. Insane. That, was after only twenty three days here's. Some more from prisoners in Walpole prison in Massachusetts. The shortest term was 11 days the longest 10, months. I. Seem. To see movements. Real, fast motions, in front of me and then it, seems like they're doing the thing behind your back, quite. See them doesn't. Just hit me dwell. On it, Alan, melting, everything in the south starts, moving everything. Gets darker you feel like you're losing your vision can't concentrate, can't, read your, minds. Narcotized. Sometimes. Can't grasp, words, in my mind that I know gets, stuck have to think, of another word memory. Is going you, feel, you, are losing something, you, might not, get our back. And finally. The words of Robert King a black panther who was imprisoned in a cell 6 foot by 9 foot for, a murder he didn't commit for, 29. Years, and, lived. When. I walked out of Angola, I didn't, realize how permanently. The experience, of solitary, would mark me even. Now my sight is impaired I find. It very difficult, to judge long distances. A result. Of living, in such a small space. Emotionally. - I found. It hard. To move on I talked, about my 29, years in solitary as, if it was the past but, the truth is never. Leaves you in some. Ways I'm still. There. What is it about living. In a static, unchanging, world. Without other people that, causes these kinds of experiences, and remember these, are just the people who got out and are able to talk about it there'd be others who could tell us a lot more about solitaire, if only they were in a state - but, that I am forbid to tell the secrets of, my prison-house, I could a tale unfold whose. Lightest, word. To. Account for these experiences, Gunther draws on a tradition, in philosophy known as, phenomenology. Now, a full survey of phenomenology, is somewhat beyond today's scope but in brief it's the practice in philosophy of putting the quality, of experience first. We, ask what, is it like to experience, the world and once we've got some kind of answer to that then, we move on to questions like what is the world like and we can spot some interesting, things in this way take. This cup if, I were to, consider it in the way that I normally do I say. That, it's. A cup as. Tea. Stains in it but if I pay attention to, the way in which I experience, it I noticed. That I can never see all, of it at once, although. I think of it as being a single, separate. Chunk of matter I only. Ever see one side, of it at a time, and. I never see it just on its own I always see it against some background, or.
In Some context. In some, relation. To me so, in fact I'm not, separate. From the world at all all, my, thoughts and the contents, of my mind are, inescapably. Bound up with it for the phenomenologist. Experience. Is not the inscription, of impressions, on the blank slate of the mind but, rather the intentional. Relation, of consciousness. To a world, that is neither out there in a separate realm beyond consciousness, nor, in, here, in the form of an innate idea, for. The phenomenologist, consciousness. Is not a thing, consciousness. Is always consciousness. Of something. Persons. Do not exist, as such, without. A world, to, which they belong, in a previous, video we talked about split. Mind, theory, the idea that to be a human being is to be split into two halves the experienced. Self and the ideal, self, the, ideal self is like an internal other that monitors, and critiques, our behavior, and, Grantha takes this idea up and, says maybe other people and, the stimulation, they provide, and the examples, they set to us are key. To forming that, ideal, self, with. Nobody else around there's, nobody to check whether what you just saw was real or. Only in your head there's. Nobody to tell you implicitly, or explicitly how. You should, behave and so your ability to do that for yourself. Starts. To break down the. Mind starts. To break down if one is deprived, for, long enough of the experience. Of other concrete, persons, in a shared or common space it is, possible, for one's own sense, of personhood, to diminish, or even. Collapse. While. The transcendental. Ego or the pure capacity, for experience, remains. Without. The concrete, experience, of other embodied, ego is oriented, towards common objects in a shared world my. Own experience. Of the boundaries, of those perceptual, objects, begins. To, waver it. Becomes difficult to tell what is real, and what is only my imagination playing. Tricks on me I may, begin to hallucinate spontaneously. Generating, an experience, of imaginary others in the absence of concrete bodily, relations, or I may, have less dramatic, but no less unnerving, perceptual. Distortions, like the, Supermax, prisoners, for whom the wire mesh on their door begins. To vibrate or. The surface of the wall seems, to, bulge. To. The extent that we regard the prisoner is an individual, who is separable, from the world and others even if we acknowledge that this individual, is a social animal whose environment, has some sort of effect on physical and mental health we, fail to grasp the, depths of the harm inflicted, by. Solitary, confinement. Mind is exposed, perhaps, most clearly by those prisoners, who throw, their own feces of, the walls of their cells so someone has to come in and clean it up ordinarily. We might say oh they're just disgusting.
Or Trying to be awful towards the guards but, Gotha invites, us to the idea that people who do this can do it because they literally have nothing else left to do, a six. Foot by nine foot, cell alone, for, years sometimes. Decades. There. Are no actions, they can take that will meaningfully. Change their, world there. Are no. Tasks. Left to perform that, can establish, a relationship with somebody else and, if deprived of that relation with the world and others the mind will break down so almost is a self defense mechanism, it forces. A connection, with somebody even, using the crudest of methods even, though that somebody will probably punish, them more in a long term as a result part, three torture. Little. Wonder then that many people will consider solitary, confinement to be a form, of torture, since. The 20th century torture, techniques, have come on a little bit it's no longer in vogue to just put, someone in thumb screws or stretch them on the rack it's also not a particularly reliable way of obtaining information if. The goal of the torture is to get information which it isn't always the. CIA's, human. Resources. Exploitation. Training manual, has. This to say the. Torture, situation, is an external. Conflict. A contest. Between the subject, and his tormentor. The. Pain which, is being inflicted upon, him from outside himself may. Actually intensify. His will to resist on, the, other hand pain. Which he feels he is inflicting, upon himself. Will. Be more likely to SAP his resistance, and in. Line with that gunther, says that torture, in the modern age tends to focus on turning, the victim against, themselves turning. The experience, itself against. The ideal self, the. Use of stress positions, like forcing a prisoner to squat, for hours on end exploits. Their own body, as the torture device wearing. Them down psychologically. As well as it's, a little bit like playing good cop bad cop only you make the prisoner, their own bad cop that, way it's a lot easier for the torturer, to come in and pretend to be the good cop who journey when he cares about the prisoner and just wants to get him out of this awful situation. Survivors. Of places like the Abu Ghraib prison and, Guantanamo Bay, have testified that loud music, was, played at them for hours by United, States soldiers as an enhanced. Interrogation technique, and the, principle there is the same Kunta argues that solitary, confinement is the purest, distillation. Of this torture principle, turning, the prisoners capacity, for any kind of experience not just pain or sound against, them turning. The structure, of their own minds, against, them there, are some practical implications of this discussion that are uncomfortable. But it would be disingenuous not, to note them the. First is, that if solitary. Confinement is a form of torture legally. Or morally, then. That would, mean that the United States which, imprisons, more people than any other country both, in terms of absolute numbers and relative to their population, and regularly. Uses solitary confinement would. Be one. Of if not the, biggest. Torturers. In the. World. Certain. Recent events might, blunt. The moral shock of a sentence like that. But. In fairness to the current regime this, practice predates, them by, many years secondly. The inhabitants, of prisons in the United States and in my country the UK are disproportionately. People of color and therefore so are the inhabitants of, solitary confinement cells, in addition you, might think as I did actually before I started researching this video that, solitary confinement is only for the worst of the worst it's only for the really. Dangerous people the really bad eggs but. That's, also not true breaking. Prison rules can, a new time in solitary and in, prison there are a lot of rules that it's sometimes difficult to avoid breaking especially the rules on fighting, if you're caught in a bad spot and you need to defend yourself in, Pelican, Bay Penitentiary, in California, you can earn a trip to the special. Housing unit, for tattooing. For having, more than five dollars without permission and. Even for attempted suicide, although. It seems a lot like extra punishment, there are no extra, trial, or legal loopholes that you have to go through before solitaire, is added to your sentence, it's also worth asking the really really hard question. Even. If solitaire was in practice only for the worst of the worst would it be okay to do even, then, given. The nature and the type of a harm that it does is that. An OK, thing to, inflict on anyone. I originally. Had quite. A different ending for this video planned but, I changed it more or less the last minute because I started to worry that it. Was coming, across as a little bit preachy.
So. The. The, neo-nazi. Terrorists and as Brevik. Murdered. 77, people including. Several teenagers in. 2011. And, he's. Been in various forms. Of solitary, confinement, ever since and I have, to confess I I. Have. No sympathy for, the man I. Certainly. Would not want to be the guy who, has to sit down and talk to others brevet once a week just cuz he's gonna lose his mind if if we don't I have. Sympathy and compassion for a lot of people in prison but. If you're coming at this from a place of well why should I care about these people then. At. Least in, that one case yeah. I I completely, agree but at the same time how. We feel. About people. In prison isn't really. The philosophical, issue at stake here the. Question, that we're bumping up against is. What. Is solitary confinement and. Maybe, prison more generally, for. Like. Why. We're doing this to people and. If. The answer is supposed to be, because. Of rehabilitation. It makes makes per people good then. We. Can't really ignore the fact that solitary, and maybe. To an extent prison generally, is, pretty incompatible, with, that goal like. You you, you can't rehabilitate, somebody who's just been. Cancelled. It's just been destroyed. In, that, way where, we we tell them to. Reflect. On what they've done but. We just. Makka them so that they can't reflect, on it we, tell them to take responsibility for, their actions but we deprive, them of any, possible actions. For, which they might take responsibility. We, tell them to make. Social, and ethical transformations. But, we deprive them of anybody relative, to whom they might make that kind of a transformation so. We. Definitely don't help people. In solitary confinement we. We just make them easier to control and maybe. Give ourselves a little bit of shouting Freud this is really. Science again kept personal, now but. Sometimes. When I'm, really going through a rough patch in my life I, have. This fantasy that I. Get. On a plane over the, ocean and. It. Crashes but. I survive, and. I. Wash. Up on a. Beautiful. Desert island and everyone, in my old life they, just think, I'm dead and I.
Live There, alone. On, the island for the rest of my days. Because. There's no one there who who, can hurt, me and. There's. No one who I can hurt. But. As. I get older I, realized. That that's not a healthy. Fantasy that's a death wish and. For. Better and worse we, really are all intertwined, there the poet John, Donne once wrote appropriate. Enough, no. Man is, an island entire. Of itself every man. Is a piece of the continent a part of, the main if, a, clod be washed, away by the sea Europe. Is the less, as. Well as if a promontory, were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own worth. Every. Man's death, diminishes me. Because, I am involved, in, mankind and. Therefore. Never, send. To know For Whom. The Bell, Tolls. It. Tolls. Special. Thanks to Dan Olsen Mike, Rugnetta, Antony. DeAngelo and Gabriel. From cashing gaya for lending their vocal talents to this episode you, can find links to all their works. You.