Why Wikileaks Whistleblower Bradley Manning's Solitary Confinement Rivals the Suffering of Physical Torture
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SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: They begin to lose their minds, right?
DR. ATUL GAWANDE: Not everybody. The people who become psychotic in solitary confinement are people who often have attention deficit disorder or low IQ or issues of prior mental illness. Well, guess who is in our prisons? And there’s a very high rate of psychosis and people flat-out going crazy under the confinement conditions. And so, then what I puzzle over is, does it actually reduce our violence in our prisons? The evidence from multiple studies now is that not only that it has not reduced violence, it’s increased the costs of being in prison. And my finding was that we have decided that when it is political—when it is a prisoner of war or a hostage, that it is absolutely torture when other countries do this to people, and that there is no discernible difference in the experience of what people go through in our prisons, when they’re in solitary confinement for 14 years, in the case of one person who I documented, that this is torture.
Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now! .
Atul Gawande, a 2006 MacArthur Fellow, is a general surgeon at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. His first book, Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the 2002 National Book Award. Gawande lives with his wife and three children in Newton, Massachusetts. Visit www.gawande.com for information.