From: Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette, June 24th 2012
How would any of us like to be locked up in a tiny cell for 23 out of 24 hours a day, sometimes for years, with no human contact other than prison guards, and with no radio, TV or personal phone calls?
This is life in the hole and it is hardly any life, because the whole point is to separate humanity from the prisoner. It sounds like a debased practice of totalitarian regimes, but solitary confinement is also a staple of the U.S. prison system, including in Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday, incredibly given the flagrant affront to human rights, members of Congress for the first time held a hearing on solitary confinement, which a growing body of opinion has come to regard as torture, plain and simple.
The Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights heard a former inmate from Texas who spent 18 years in prison tell of his horrible time in the hole. Anthony Graves, whose conviction for involvement in multiple murders was overturned in 2006, said that solitary confinement “is inhumane and by its design it is driving men insane.”
Some Americans hold little sympathy for prisoners, believing that any punishment is what they deserve. But nobody deserves to be driven mad, and that offends something else beyond basic decency — the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which forbids the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments.” It’s hard to believe that being driven to madness doesn’t qualify.