Spirituality in Dark Places: The Ethics of Solitary Confinement

Spirituality in Dark Places: The Ethics of Solitary Confinement

Derek S. Jeffreys

Language: English

Pages: 217

ISBN: B01K0RUW64

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Spirituality in Dark Places explores the spiritual consequences and ethics of modern solitary confinement. Jeffreys emphasizes how solitary confinement damages our spiritual lives, focusing particularly on how it destroys our relationship to time and undermines our creativity. Solitary inmates experience profound temporal dislocation that erodes their personal identities. They are often isolated from music, art, and books, or find their creativity tightly controlled. Informed by experiences with inmates, chaplains, and employees in the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, Jeffreys also evaluates the ethics of solitary confinement, considering but ultimately rejecting the argument that punitive isolation justifiably expresses moral outrage at heinous crimes. Finally, Jeffreys proposes changes in solitary confinement in order to mitigate its profound damage to both prisoners and human dignity at large.

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than our fleeting individual experiences. It is not “intrinsically bound by particularities of time and space,” and allows us to transcend past, present, and future.43 Universals thus 22 S p i r i t ua l i t y i n Da r k P l ac e s provide a temporal stability vital to human life, and reveal one mode of overcoming time’s damage.44 To summarize, human beings transcend their environment because they can never be entirely confined to one object or good. They consider universals and larger

conflicting rulings on inmate access to reading materials. Naturally, prisons must confiscate dangerous reading materials like bomb-making manuals. For security reasons, they have an obligation to monitor materials like mail. However, courts have ruled that this general obligation cannot warrant complete control over reading material. For example, in 1974, the Supreme Court rejected broad restrictions on inmate mail. It insisted that the state of California refrain from censoring mail containing

Mississippi demonstrates the promise of cooperation between state officials and outside groups like the ACLU. Often, outside groups must be at odds with state officials in order to force change. Unfortunately, activists sometimes demonize corrections officers and wardens, producing unnecessary and unproductive conflicts. In the Mississippi case, in contrast, the “administration of the Department of Corrections eventually welcomed the changes demanded by the plaintiffs in a serious of class-action

units often goes unnoticed in media accounts of solitary. By using a broad conception of solitary, I focus attention on this disturbing development. The Book’s Structure Chapter 1 outlines the philosophical ideas that guide my analysis of solitary confinement. Imprisonment distorts a person’s sense of time, and I first consider temporal dislocation. I also describe how our spiritual powers of transcendence and self-possession enable us to deal with temporal dislocation. I then turn to human

contemporary account of cruel and unusual punishment, see Colin Dayan, The Story of Cruel and Unusual. With a Preface by Jeremy Waldron (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007). I have drawn heavily from this source. 11. For the connections between US domestic and foreign treatment of inmates, see Dayan, The Law Is a White Dog, xv-xvi; and Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris, Standard Operating Procedure (New York: Penguin Press, 2008), 7–15. 12. Martha Nussbaum eloquently makes the case for the

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