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USA : how to fix solitary confinement in American prisons

Hundreds of prisoners live in solitary confinement in Los Angeles County jails. On average, they spend at least one year in a cell the size of a wheelchair-accessible bathroom stall, leaving only a few times a week, one at a time, for showers or exercise. Meals arrive through a slot in the cell door. Between the long hours in isolation and the steel doors, a prisoner might go days, or longer, without looking another person in the eye.

Solitary confinement costs taxpayers 2 to 3 times more per prisoner than less restrictive forms of incarceration. California officials estimated they would save $28 million this year by reducing the state’s solitary confinement population by even a few hundred prisoners. But solitary is even more expensive in social terms. It can cause serious psychological damage — anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations that may continue long after prisoners return to our neighborhoods.

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