To: Barbara A. Wakeen, MA, RDN, CCHP, Chair of the Board of Directors at National Commission on Correctional Health Care
A Call to End Health Workers' Participation in the Practice of Solitary Confinement
We, the undersigned Helping & Health professionals, question the ethics of health worker participation in the practice of Solitary Confinement.
We call upon the governing bodies of our professions to denounce Solitary Confinement, as it is in direct violation of our Codes of Ethics, which call upon us to uphold the dignity and humanity of all people.
Why is this important?
On any given day, 80,000-100,000 people are held in Solitary Confinement units in jails and prisons throughout the United States, usually as punishment for some type of infraction – often for infractions as minor as possession of too many postage stamps. People of color are disproportionately subjected to isolation, as are those with mental health needs. The length of time in solitary ranges from a few days to decades. People who’ve been held in solitary have likened it to being buried alive. In 2011, the United Nations declared that Solitary Confinement beyond 15 days constitutes torture.
We, the undersigned Helping & Health professionals, question the ethics of health worker participation in the practice of Solitary Confinement. In particular, mental health professionals play a vital role in this practice, as they are routinely called upon to assess the mental status of those held in solitary, to provide psychiatric medication, and to advise correctional personnel as to those at high risk for suicide. Ironically, solitary confinement itself creates and exacerbates mental disorders, yet we are forced to become enablers to this grueling punishment. We call upon the governing bodies of our professions to set mandatory standards for those assigned to these units and to denounce Solitary Confinement in its current form, as it is in direct violation of our Codes of Ethics, which call upon us to uphold the dignity and humanity of all people.
For further information on “Dual Loyalty” – the conflict between professional standards & employer expectations please go to: www.socialworkersasc.org
Social Workers Against Solitary Confinement