Date of Award

Spring 5-23-2021

Document Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Amy McKiernan




In this thesis I argue that solitary confinement should be abolished because it is a dehumanizing practice that harms the body physically and mentally. Unlike the assumption that solitary confinement is rehabilitative, this practice of punishment destroys one’s sense of self. I begin this thesis by defining and differentiating terminology used in the discussion of prisons. Next, I identify and contest three common intuitions about solitary confinement: (1) solitary confinement is nonviolent, (2) solitary confinement is rehabilitative through solitude, and (3) solitary confinement is protective. Then, I provide an overview of the history of solitary confinement as a dehumanizing practice. I continue to argue in favor of the abolition of solitary confinement through the perspectives of three first-person narratives from formerly incarcerated individuals who collectively spent around half a century in solitary confinement. Lastly, I argue that the abolition of solitary confinement is important but insufficient for achieving justice. The abolition of solitary confinement is only one part of a larger prison abolition movement, which proposes investing money in programs such as education and healthcare in order to ultimately prevent the need for prisons as an overarching punishing and “protecting” body.