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Does Solitary Confinement Violate the Eighth Amendment?

Annual Poster Session 2021
Illustration by Nathaniel Stone: "Does Solitary Confinement Violate the Eighth Amendment?"

Student Illustrator: Nathaniel Stone

Student Author: Margaret McDermott

The use of prolonged solitary confinement of prisoners is a cruel punishment that is in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The conditions in solitary confinement would cause anyone difficulty. Prisoners that are kept in this type of captivity spend up to twenty-three hours a day isolated in a poorly-lit cell that can be as small as six by twelve feet and have only an hour of scheduled exercise outside of the cell.  While technological advances have helped in many areas of life, they have just increased the isolation that is faced by these prisoners because activities that used to be done in person, like mental health appointments, counseling, and contact with guards can now be done using video equipment and microphones.  Considering the extreme conditions that people in solitary confinement can be subjected to, it should come as no surprise that there have been multiple Supreme Court cases during which solitary confinement has been debated. While the Supreme Court has never ruled that all solitary confinement constitutes an Eighth Amendment violation, there have been some rulings that do have connections to the issue.

This is part of the 2021 Annual Poster Session, a collaboration between the Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice Department and the Media Arts and Technologies Department, featuring work by social science and illustration students.