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. Suedfeld, in response to questions concerning the permanent psychological effects of long-term confinement, stated:

They vary tremendously, depending upon the individual... I would say that people who have problems adapting in the first place to any environment or to normal environments would have problems adapting to that environment [solitary confinement] ...I would expect that for many people after some prolonged period of time, especially if there is no hope of being released from that environment, things would tend to become inadequate and an individual would then take on another form of reaction to the environment. That may take place in the form of apathy, fantasizing, general withdrawal from the external environment, some kind of inner life, and in some cases, I expect it would lead to psychosis.113

In his written summary of evidence, Dr. Suedfeld remarked that 'isolation as a punitive technique sometimes serves only to exacerbate problems of aggression and resentment. In such cases, it is obviously counterproductive and should be abandoned.'II4 In his oral testimony Dr. Suedfeld stated that the effectiveness of isolation 'is doubtful enough to warrant its rejection in this context. Furthermore its use in punishment probably detracts from its potential utility in therapy. For these reasons I would be happy, for one, to see it removed from the repertoire of punitive techniques.'115

The defendants also called Dr. George Scott, the senior psychiatrist in the Canadian Penitentiary Service. For the purposes of giving his evidence, Dr. Scott prepared statistics for the British Columbia Penitentiary that were designed to compare the effects of living in SCU with living in the general prison population. These statistics showed that in 1974 11 percent of the population in scu were involved in slashing incidents, compared to 1 per cent in the general population; 6.4 per cent of the prisoners in SCU committed suicide, compared to 0.9 per cent in the general population; 8.3 per cent of the prisoners in SCU were involved in acts of violence, compared to 7.5 per cent in the general population.117

Dr. Scott explained that while slashing was most unusual in the non- prison society, it did occur more frequently in prison, and his statistics showed that the incidence increased dramatically with men placed in solitary confinement. According to Dr. Scott, the reasons for the slashings usually involved 'frustration, aggravation, resentment and hostility. Usually there are very frustrating circumstances that individuals can't handle. In other words, he has got no solution. He can't act out so he acts in.'117

Dr. Scott's statistics and his explanations are fully congruent with Dr. Fox's evidence on the concept of punishment-induced aggression.

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