Moral Outrage
Whew! God help us!

Bradley Manning and Solitary Confinement

Charles Dickens had a keen interest in prison conditions, having witnessed his father’s detention in a Victorian debtor’s prison. A man who had seen his share of inhumanities, Dickens pronounced solitary confinement to be “rigid, strict, and hopeless…cruel and wrong.” He wrote:

“I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers…I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain, to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body.”

That was 1842. Since then, piles of scientific studies, along with the vivid accounts of victims, have confirmed what was obvious to Dickens. Solitary confinement is worse than smashed bones and torn flesh. Many prisoners experience explosive rages, hallucinations, catatonia, and self-mutilation. Some become irretrievably insane. (see National Geographic’s documentary on the subject, available on Netflix).

Solitary confinement is thus a method of inflicting traumatic injury upon the human mind. “It’s an awful thing, solitary,” wrote former Vietnam prisoner John McCain. “It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.

Yet it is being used as a method of terror and coercion by the United States government upon a citizen who has not even been convicted of a crime. Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has been detained in solitary confinement for the last seven months, despite not having been convicted of any crime. As Glenn Greenwald reports, “the brig’s medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.”

Whatever one thinks of Manning and his involvement in the WikiLeaks release of classified information, there can never be any justification for torture. As Greenwald argues, such practices weaken the position of the United States government, both abroad and at home. Our moral standing in the world suffers, while the American citizenry, already suspicious of post-9/11 governmental abuses of power, grows even more alarmed.

The placement of human beings in solitary confinement is not a measure of their depravity. It is a measure of our own.

[From an article by Lynn Parramore]

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3 Responses to “Bradley Manning and Solitary Confinement”

  1. […] past seven months, 22-year-old US Army Private Bradley Manning, has been held 23 hours out of 24 in solitary confinement in his cell, under constant […]

  2. […] Bradley Manning slowly tortured catatonic in US custody Bradley Manning’s friend, David House, now tells us that over 8 months in isolation with movement and sleep restrictions placed on Manning have been having their intended effect. […]

  3. […] less than two weeks, starting on December 16, the U.S. military will begin its case against Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier suspected to have leaked classified information that appeared on the WikiLeaks […]


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