Solitary Confinement

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Solitary Confinement


By: Vehbi Koca

Date: c. 1990s

Source: Alamy Images. "Prisoner in His Solitary Confinement, Sinop, Turkey" 〈〉 (accessed March 6, 2006).

About the Photographer. Vehbi Koca is a photographer who lives in Great Britain. He works in a variety of photographic styles, including fine art and photojournalism. Many of his photos were taken in Turkey and he has dedicated numerous photo essays to Turkish subjects. He holds degrees in photography and visual design from the University of Westminster, Southwark College, and the London College of Printing.


Throughout history, different forms of discipline and imprisonment have been used to enforce laws and support government rule. Prisons are typically divided by degrees of security, depending upon the severity of the crime committed and the perceived threat that prisoners present. Solitary confinement is often used for the most unruly inmates or for those that authorities want to discipline even more harshly. Inmates can be transferred between the various sections of the prison in response to their behavior.

Solitary confinement, in which an inmate is separated from the general prison population, is one of the most difficult conditions to which prisoners can be subjected. They may be allowed out of their cells for as little as one hour a day—or never. As a result of human rights and prisoner advocacy groups' efforts, the strictness of solitary confinement, particularly in Western countries, has lessened considerably. Solitary cells can range from comfortable cells with beds and sunlight to tiny dark enclosures that are designed to inflict mental torture.

The primary criticism of solitary confinement is the psychological damage that it can cause. Inmates subjected to solitary confinement can experience memory loss, hallucinations, and even insanity. These prisoners may also be less likely to acclimate back into society when they are released.

Correctional facilities that use solitary confinement believe that its use as a punishment is necessary to deter bad behavior.



See primary source image.


This undated photo was taken in Turkey, a solid trade partner with Europe and the Western world—a regime not known for cruel judicial practices. Yet this picture reveals that this type of treatment is used in Turkey, illustrating that in less progressive parts of the world, the inhumane torture and mistreatment of prisoners goes on, even as other countries pass laws to ban such mistreatment.

Extreme solitary confinement combines physical and emotional discomfort. The inmate is deprived of human contact, a factor that psychologists argue is a major factor in driving people to insanity. Turkish authorities, because of their use of prison cells like this one, have been criticized by human rights organizations for using cruel practices that should not be part of any criminal justice system. Proponents say that while solitary confinement as seen in this photo is uncomfortable and demeaning, it is an effective and necessary form of discipline central to preserving the safety of guards and other inmates. Prison officials also note that placing prisoners in solitary confinement may prevent them from harming themselves.

While solitary confinement is used in prison systems throughout the world, this photo does not necessarily indicate the types of cells used in other systems. While the prisoner here appears to be suffering from physical restraint because of the size of his cell, solitary confinement in other prisons and countries could only indicate that a prisoner is housed separated from the general population, but in more humane and hospitable conditions.


Web sites

Amnesty International. "Amnesty International Urges Turkish Authorities to End Ocalan Solitary Confinement." 〈〉 (accessed February 15, 2006).

American Kurdish Information Network.M "Torture and Prisons in Turkey" 〈〉 (accessed February 15, 2006).