2015 Archives

It’s time we put solitary confinement away for good


The following is from a column by Steve Blow that appeared in the June 21, 2015, edition of The Dallas Morning News. Betty Gilmore, lecturer and dispute resolution director for SMU Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development, provided expertise for this.

June 22, 2015

By Steve Blow

In prison movies, there’s a certain cool cachet to solitary confinement. It’s always the symbol of mental toughness and fierce independence.

We think of Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke and Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, to mention a couple of classics.

In real life, solitary confinement doesn’t quite work out that way.

It degrades and dehumanizes, leaving prisoners worse than when they went in. And in Texas, solitary confinement is used at more than twice the rate of other states, according to one study.

OK, let’s deal with the “So what?” crowd right up front. Prison is supposed to be miserable, they say. And solitary confinement especially. Who cares what effect it has?

Southern Methodist University lecturer Betty Gilmore has a simple answer to that. “They come out,” she says.

“The vast majority come out of solitary confinement to live in your community and mine,” she said. “We all have a stake in them being able to live successfully and productively.”

Gilmore is director of the dispute resolution program at SMU. She is also co-author of The Darkest Hour: Shedding Light on the Impact of Isolation and Death Row in Texas Prisons.

The book was written with Nanon Williams, who is an inmate in the Texas prison system. It’s also part of a growing chorus calling for reform in the use of solitary confinement.

Read the full column.

# # #