Where We Stand
NAMI believes that no one should be subject to practices that can cause or worsen mental health symptoms. NAMI opposes the use of solitary confinement and equivalent forms of administrative segregation for people with mental health conditions.
Why We Care
Solitary confinement is the placement of individuals in locked, highly restrictive and isolated cells or similar areas of confinement with limited or no human contact and few, if any, rehabilitative services. Placement in solitary confinement frequently lasts for weeks, months or even years at a time.
It is routinely documented that solitary confinement is used extensively in correctional settings for people with severe psychiatric symptoms. A 2018 national report documented that about 8.6% of all individuals held in segregated settings are diagnosed with serious mental illness.
Solitary confinement for people with serious mental illness:
- Causes extreme suffering
- Disrupts treatment
- Causes or worsens symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and hallucinations
- Impedes rehabilitation, recovery, and community re-integration
- Causes adverse long-term consequences for cognitive and adaptive functioning
Rather than using isolation strategies that can cause long-term damage, NAMI urges federal, state, and other correctional authorities to provide mental health care alternatives to solitary confinement.
How We Talk About It
- Isolating individuals, especially for long periods of time, can cause severe psychological distress — for any person — but especially for someone with mental illness.
- Solitary confinement and other forms of “administrative segregation” are often used to control and manage inmates with serious mental illness. This needs to stop.
- For inmates with a pre-existing mental illness, being put into solitary confinement can cause extreme suffering, worsen symptoms, and feel like torture.
- The long-term effect of solitary confinement is devastating. It can leave individuals with mental illness unable to function in correctional facilities and unprepared to successfully reenter communities after their release.
- For juveniles with mental illness, the long-term effects of solitary confinement may be even more damaging as their brains are still developing.
- Extreme isolation can have a permanent impact and significantly increase the risk of suicide and self-injury.
- Rather than using isolation strategies that can cause long-term damage, NAMI urges federal, state, and other correctional authorities to provide mental health care alternatives to solitary confinement.
- Limiting the use of solitary confinement and eliminating its use for high-risk populations, including people with mental illness, people with intellectual/developmental disabilities and juveniles, would result in:
- Fewer psychiatric symptoms
- Lower rates of violence
- Improved re-entry and transitions back into the community
- Increased cost savings to correctional systems.
What We’ve Done
Print this Page