Assange and Manning have both spent a lot of time in solitary confinement. In this article I will try and explain why this is torture and what it does psychologically to those who spend long amounts of time placed therein. There are tons of articles you can read online about this, but the main point is that the detrimental effect on a person’s psyche is permanent.
In an article by the American Psychology Association, they state some very facts.
Such long-term effects are common, Haney said. “One of the very serious psychological consequences of solitary confinement is that it renders many people incapable of living anywhere else.” Then, when prisoners are released into cells or back into society, they are often overwhelmed with anxiety. “They actually get to the point where they become frightened of other human beings,” he said.
Both Assange and Manning have been put in solitary confinement for months at a time and Assange is currently in it since his arrest April 11th.
According to an article in Psychology Today, (seen here):
UN Special Rapporteur Juan E. Mendez said in this report:
“Solitary confinement, [as a punishment] cannot be justified for any reason, precisely because it imposes severe mental pain and suffering beyond any reasonable retribution for criminal behaviour and thus constitutes an act defined [as] … torture.”
According to Mendez, the adverse healtheffects of this type of imprisonment are numerous, and include ‘prison psychosis,’ which can lead to anxiety, depression, irritability, cognitivedisorders, hallucinations, paranoia, and self-inflicted injuries. Mendez concluded that “solitary confinement for more than 15 days…constitutes cruel and inhuman, or degrading treatment, or even torture”—well below the time Browder and Smith spent in isolation.
Also in this article:
The adverse effects of solitary confinement on mental health have a long history of documentation. David H. Cloud, head of the Vera Institute of Justice’s Reform for Healthy Communities Initiative, stated:
“Nearly every scientific inquiry into the effects of solitary confinement over the past 150 years has concluded that subjecting an individual to more than 10 days of involuntary segregation results in a distinct set of emotional, cognitive, social, and physical pathologies.”
The permanent damage to the psyche of an intelligent, outgoing person like Julian Assange due to his 7 year isolation in the Embassy in London and 8 months without phone, visitors or internet, is irreversible. He will never be the same person. It would take years to even undo some of the damage done.
As a person who often has spent days at a time without much personal contact, the loneliness is the most depressing thing I, myself, have ever encountered. Still, there were family members to talk to or I had the internet or the phone. I can tell you from personal experience that constantly being alone changes you.
According to another article in Psychology Today, (seen here):
There is a difference between loneliness (the imposition of social isolation) and aloneness (the choice of being alone), and thus the brain reacts in very different ways. Loneliness, or social isolation, affecting a large part of the population as it became an epidemic in the last few years, is known to cause changes in the brain, possibly leading to more serious consequences such as depression and other mood disorders.
Robert King, an ex-inmate who was in solitary confinement for 29 years, shared his experience with a room full of curious neuroscientists during the world’s biggest neuroscience conference by the Society for Neuroscience in November 2018. Being confined in a 6×9-foot cell for almost 30 years, with very limited contact with other humans or physical exercise, surely has consequences on one’s overall health, including the brain. King knew that solitary confinement was changing the way his brain worked. When he finally left his cell, he realized he had trouble recognizing faces and had to retrain his eyes to learn what a face was like. His sense of direction was also messed up, and he was unable to follow a simple route in the city by himself. It is as if his brain had erased all those capabilities that were no longer necessary for survival in a cell no bigger than the back of a pick-up truck.
One of the most remarkable effects of chronic social isolation, as in the extreme case of solitary confinement, is the decrease in the size of hippocampus, the brain region related to learning, memory, and spatial awareness. The sustained stress of extreme isolation leads to a loss of hippocampal plasticity, a decrease in the formation of new neurons, and the eventual failing in hippocampal function. On the other hand, the amygdala increases its activity in response to isolation. This area mediates fear and anxiety, symptoms enhanced in prisoners in solitary confinement.
As stated by the U.N.’s Nelson Mandel Act, anything over 15 days in solitary confinement is considered torture. So what we have is 2 modern western countries participating in cruel and unusual punishment which they both claim is illegal. Both the U.S. and U.K. have denounced torture and made laws to prevent it. So why are they abusing these laws and using it for special cases?
Both do this to try and break individuals to submit. It is a sick, demented form of coercement. It is easier to obtain information and destroy an enemy by completely isolating them. Also, the general public sees it as less of a crime than other forms of violence.
By using both Assange and Manning as examples, they are instilling terror into other journalists and the general public to prevent future whistleblowers and publishers from exposing their government’s corruption. In fact, this is an act of terrorism. The torture of both is a huge blow to the First Amendment and our right to know.
We must end the torture and prosecution before it is too late and we see the death of our freedom.