location: publications / books / Prisoners of Isolation: Solitary Confinement in Canada / Chapter 3 Solitary Confinement in the Age of Corrections: Cruel and Unusual Punishment in the Twentieth Century / Solitary Confinement in the BC Penitentiary / The Effects of Solitary Confinement

Dr. Korn explained to the court the effects of particular aspects of the solitary confinement experience. He described the way prisoners experience time in solitary.

Free men spend time. Prisoners do time. Doing time is a specific activity, a calling, an art. Time itself is a force, it has its own action. Offenders are hit with their time and the word for a prison sentence is a jolt. Prison time is almost palpable. It not only has force, it has mass and weight. Too heavy a sentence can suffocate ...

[In SCU] time stops and begins to crush and you have that suffocation, you have the tiny space, the relative inaction. and that crushing experience and then the mind begins to play its tricks to save itself. You begin by fantasies ...and then after a while you lose control of that process of fantasy, and the internal TV takes over, and it is usually nightmares.

One of the ways they keep alive is by fantasies of retaliation which is a very human thing to do. You see yourself as a victim of overwhelming forces. You are deprived of autonomy... These men, deprived of self-determination and feeling abused, can keep themselves alive only by fantasies and feelings of fury which, in a way, sets them up for going back and among other things severely endangers the staff. So in process and experience and in consequence, it is a catastrophe and an unnecessary one.97

Sometimes the fantasies become hallucinations.

[A hallucination] is a waking dream. It is a dream you are having with your eyes open and that is very frightening. That is what madness is ...You have to make sense of it, how do you make sense of something that is crazy. So you create a rational explanation. There is a machine. That puts you out of touch with everybody. You see, you can't talk to anyone about it so some of the frustrations that the plaintiffs talk about, I try to help this man, I tried to reach him. I couldn't reach him. The terrible effect that has on other prisoners. because the unspoken thing is 'that could be me.' Keep men long enough there and that is the destination for everybody.98

Hallucinations are detrimental to the good order of the institution. 'An individual who has hallucinated extensively will carry back with him the potentiality to lose touch and to be destructive or violent again. There will be flashback hallucinations just as there are with drugs. Impulsive, erratic and dangerous, unpredictable behaviour will carry back. '99

Dr. Fox expanded on the implications when prisoners are returned to the population from solitary: 'What can they bring to the population? They bring the paranoia, the insanity, the fear, the violence into the population and the incidence increases and increases. It is not serviceable to the population. It is not serviceable to the public. It is not serviceable to the prisoner.'l00

Both Dr. Fox and Dr. Korn were asked to give their opinions on the permanence of the detrimental effects of solitary confinement such as had been experienced by the plaintiffs. Dr. Korn responded, 'I would say that the effects are lifelong. They can be overcome with a great deal of support. They are not necessarily fatal to sanity but they are, they represent, a permanent possibility. Things like a heart attack you recover from.'101

In Dr. Fox's opinion,

There is a loss of something in these people produced by these conditions which is never recoverable, and I say that with total conviction. and what is.lost is the ability to love. That may sound non-scientific in the court, and that may sound beyond the area of expertise; but I think the Court can understand exactly what it means to lose the ability to love anything, including yourself, and the dilemma that society is faced with when you are presented with a person who loves nothing, who has lost the ability to love, because without that there can be no compassion, no understanding, there can only be -what remains can only be violence.

Their minds have been torn away in a manner which is not reversible ...and I mean that by their own statements each of these people has said to me 'Yes, yes, there is a part of me that wi\l never return because I cannot feel about human beings the way I used to feel about them, because I know that they are capable of acts so incredible to me that my faith in them is so severely undermined. I am sceptical and dubious, I am cynical about the nature of human beings who induce this pain and wi\l tear away from me the things that I most want to recover -my ability to love anything or anyone, which I had enough trouble with before I came into this place.'l02

Dr. Tony Marcus characterized the treatment of men in SCU as 'an attempt to crush the human spirit.' His opinion of the plaintiffs' treatment was that 'it had undermined, burnt into them a sense of hate, mistrust, tension that they carry with them as part of their personality. It has only added to their negative character. In no way has it helped. It has served no positive penal purpose in the prison structure. It has denied them the capacity to function as people who can tolerate human situations. It has put so much hate and paranoia into them that I fear it is permanent. It is a destructive impairment of their emotionallives.'103

Both Dr. Fox and Dr. Korn were asked to compare the psychological suffering caused by solitary confinement with physical punishment.

It is worse, there is no physical punishment which can approach this ...There is no fear for these people of physical death, it is easier than the time. It is simply termination of your life. That is not painful, it is over, it is done, but to cling to your life in this morass of continuous torture is a much, much heavier thing to do than physical death ...It is easier to die than to undergo the pain ...Most of them prefer to die, they hang themselves rather than sustain it. That's what the suicides are about.104

The evidence simply is that if you keep people long enough. they will engage in self-torture. simply to focus the pain. So obviously if the inmates choose the infliction of punishment. physical punishment. they have indicated the answer to that question. Physical pain which is definite, which they can control... is much more bearable than the torment they can neither understand nor control. 105

Page 7 of 9