Solitary confinement is purportedly employed as a means to mitigate violence
within jail populations and has seen increased utilization due to rising
incarceration rates. Within most jails, inmates placed in solitary confinement
typically fall into one of three distinct categories: disciplinary segregation,
voluntary administrative segregation, and involuntary administrative
Solitary confinement is harmful to all prisoners, regardless of gender or age.
Women prisoners, including transgender women, can be especially vulnerable to
its negative effects. These harms are not justifiable. Solitary confinement not
only has a devastating impact on women but also affects their children and can
hinder their rehabilitation and ability to reintegrate into society as
productive members. Prisons, correctional homes and jails should stop using
unnecessary and harmful solitary confinement for women.
Disciplinary segregation serves as a punitive measure, while administrative
segregation is a precautionary step intended to safeguard either the isolated
inmate or the general inmate population. While the use of segregation as a
disciplinary action or a preventative measure for the protection of fellow
inmates is ostensibly reserved for offenders who have committed violent
infractions while incarcerated, women, in particular, often find themselves
subjected to solitary confinement for relatively minor transgressions, such as
minor acts of defiance or verbal confrontations with prison staff. Moreover, it
is frequently employed against female inmates who report incidents of sexual
assault involving prison guards or other inmates.
Once placed in solitary confinement, women often experience heightened levels of
scrutiny and endure more severe disciplinary measures compared to their male
When a woman prisoner commits a serious rule violation, they might be placed in
solitary confinement as a punishment. In this form of confinement, called
disciplinary segregation, inmates don't have the same privileges as those in
administrative segregation, but their time in isolation is usually shorter.
According to a magazine created by inmates in a California prison, this practice
seems to follow a "guilty until proven innocent" approach, where prisoners can
be put in solitary even before it's clear if they actually broke the rules.
Sometimes, inmates who are seen as politically troublesome are also isolated.
Although the United States doesn't officially acknowledge having political
prisoners, some inmates end up in solitary confinement because of their
political activities. This often leads to a situation where minorities are more
likely to be placed in solitary confinement.
Administrative segregation, often referred to as "ad seg," is more common than
disciplinary segregation, and it serves primarily to protect either the inmate
placed in solitary confinement or others in the prison. Inmates may be placed in
administrative segregation if they are deemed a danger to others or if their
safety is at risk, or if they could potentially interfere with an ongoing
In many cases, women who express feeling threatened by someone
else may be placed in solitary confinement, and likewise, if they are accused of
displaying threatening behavior, they may be isolated without an opportunity to
defend themselves. Women placed in administrative segregation are typically
those who have encountered difficulties adapting to prison life and are
considered "high-risk" and "high-needs" upon entering the facility. Unlike
disciplinary segregation, administrative segregation is not intended as a form
of punishment, and inmates in ad seg are legally required to be treated
similarly to those in the general prison population.
In some cases, women prisoners ask to be placed in solitary confinement, mainly
to protect themselves. They may do this to avoid facing additional challenges to
their sense of self that can result from their interactions and experiences in
prison. Studies have shown that women who voluntarily go into administrative
segregation often have significant personal or emotional needs. Some of them
have also dealt with substance abuse issues, although most do not have problems
with "community functioning."
Women prisoners who are seen as a threat to other inmates are occasionally
placed in administrative segregation. Similarly, a prisoner can be placed in
segregation if authorities believe she is at risk and needs protection. These
women, like those who choose to go into segregation voluntarily, often have
significant personal and emotional needs. However, many of them also struggle
with functioning in the general prison community or interacting with others.
Solitary Confinement of Women Prisoners in Jails of West Bengal
Women prisoners in West Bengal are kept in segregation on the following grounds:
Number of Women Prisoners with Children Admitted during the year 2021 in
different Jails of West Bengal
- If she has any contagious disease.
- If her statement is to be recorded by court under section 164 CrPC for making a confessional statement or for any other purpose.
- Before the day of delivery of judgment by court after her conviction.
- If she is a condemned to death prisoner.
- If there is a court order for keeping her separately.
- If she requests for her separate accommodation for her studies or any other purpose.
- If she is a high-risk prisoner.
- If she assaults any other prisoner or is in the habit of quarrelling with other prisoners.
- For protecting her from the assault of other prisoners.
- For undisciplined conduct.
- For making allegations against the prison authorities in a few cases.
- For allegedly picking up a fight with the prisoner close to the authorities in some cases.
- If she is an AIDS patient.
|No. of Convict Women Prisoners with Children
||No. of Children with Convict Women Prisoners
||No. of Undertrial Women Prisoners with Children
||No. of Children with Undertrial Women Prisoners
||No. of Other Women Prisoners with Children
||No. of Children with Other category Women
No. of Women Prisoners with Children
No. of Children with Women Prisoners
In the year 2021, West Bengal's correctional homes (Jails/Prisons are called
Correctional Homes in West Bengal) witnessed the admission of a total of 670
women prisoners who were accompanied by their children. These women were
categorized into three distinct groups: convict women prisoners, undertrial
women prisoners, and women classified under other categories. In other
categories are included women whose release order has been given by the court,
but are staying in jail due to delay in the process of their
They are mainly Bangladeshi or any other foreign
national. Among convict women prisoners, there were 42 individuals with 53
children, highlighting the unique challenges faced by incarcerated mothers.
Additionally, undertrial women prisoners numbered 472, and they were accompanied
by 493 children, underscoring the complex dynamics of family separation and its
impact on these young lives.
Among other category women prisoners, 156 were
admitted with 167 children, shedding light on the diverse circumstances that can
lead women into the criminal justice system. This data emphasizes the need for
comprehensive support systems for incarcerated mothers and their children,
addressing their distinct needs and circumstances within the prison environment.
The total count of 670 women prisoners with children admitted during the year
2021 in various West Bengal jails underscores the importance of policies and
programs aimed at addressing the welfare and rehabilitation of this vulnerable
population. Additionally, the total number of children accompanying these women
prisoners amounted to 713, indicating the scale of the challenge in terms of
providing appropriate care, education, and emotional support to these young
dependents while their mothers serve their sentences.
This data serves as a
reminder of the multifaceted issues surrounding women prisoners with children
and highlights the importance of a holistic approach in the criminal justice
system that considers not only the rehabilitation of women offenders but also
the well-being and future prospects of their children, with the ultimate goal of
breaking the cycle of incarceration within families.
Number of Women Prisoners during the year 2021 in different Jails of West Bengal
|Type of Prison
||Number of Women Prisoners
In the year 2021, the state of West Bengal witnessed a total of 1,530 women
prisoners across various types of correctional facilities. These women were
incarcerated in different types of jails, each serving its specific purpose
within the criminal justice system. Among these, Central Jails held the largest
number of women prisoners, totaling 757 individuals. District Jails followed
with 342 women prisoners, indicating the presence of female inmates across
various regions of the state.
Additionally, Special Jails housed 47 women
prisoners, Subsidiary Jails held 104, Women's Jails were home to 280 women
prisoners, while Open Jails, Borstal Schools, and Other Jails reported no female
inmates. This comprehensive data offers insight into the distribution of women
prisoners across different types of correctional facilities in West Bengal and
underscores the importance of tailoring rehabilitation and support programs to
meet the specific needs of these individuals based on their incarceration
The total count of 1,530 women prisoners in West Bengal during the year 2021
highlights the complex challenges faced by the criminal justice system in
managing the female inmate population. It emphasizes the need for
gender-sensitive policies and interventions that address the unique needs and
circumstances of women behind bars.
Whether in Central Jails, District Jails,
Special Jails, Subsidiary Jails, or Women's Jails, it is essential to ensure the
provision of adequate healthcare, education, vocational training, and mental
health support to facilitate rehabilitation and reintegration into society upon
release. Additionally, the absence of women in Open Jails, Borstal Schools, and
Other Jails suggests a potential area for further exploration and development of
gender-responsive alternatives to traditional incarceration for female offenders
in the future.
Solitary Confinement of Female Transgender Prisoners in Jails
Solitary confinement of female transgender prisoners in jails raises significant
ethical and human rights concerns. Transgender women who are subjected to
solitary confinement are particularly vulnerable to adverse psychological and
emotional effects. Solitary confinement typically involves isolating an
individual in a small cell for up to 23 hours a day, often for extended periods.
For transgender prisoners, this isolation can be especially distressing as it
exacerbates the discrimination and isolation, they already face due to their
gender identity. Being placed in solitary confinement based on one's transgender
status rather than behavior can be seen as a form of discrimination and a
violation of their right to be treated with dignity and respect.
Moreover, the detrimental mental health consequences of solitary confinement can
be severe. Transgender prisoners may already experience higher rates of
depression, anxiety, and suicide attempts due to the unique challenges they face
in correctional settings. Solitary confinement compounds these challenges,
potentially leading to a deterioration in their mental health.
As such, it is
crucial for correctional systems to adopt policies and practices that respect
transgender individuals' gender identity, ensure their safety without resorting
to isolation, and provide adequate mental health support. This approach not only
aligns with human rights principles but also promotes the well-being and
rehabilitation of all prisoners, including transgender women.
Transgender individuals represent a tiny fraction of the prison population in
West Bengal. In the month of July 2023, out of a total prisoner population of
27,490 across the correctional facilities in the state, just 19 individuals
identified as transgender. Among these, Jalpaiguri Central Correctional Home
housed 8 transgender prisoners, Balurghat Central Correctional Home had 4, and
Dumdum Central Correctional Home accommodated 7.
Interestingly, the remaining 57
correctional homes in the state reported no transgender prisoners during that
period. This data underscores the limited presence of transgender individuals
within the prison system, highlighting the importance of developing policies and
practices that address their unique needs and challenges while ensuring their
rights and well-being are upheld.
Impact of putting women prisoners in Solitary Confinement
Placing women prisoners in solitary confinement can have a range of profound and
often negative impacts on their mental, emotional, and physical well-being. One
of the most notable consequences is the severe toll it takes on their mental
health. The isolation, sensory deprivation, and lack of meaningful human
interaction in solitary confinement can lead to significant psychological
distress. Many women in solitary confinement experience symptoms such as extreme
anxiety, depression, paranoia, hallucinations, and even suicidal thoughts.
prolonged periods of isolation, often lasting for weeks, months, or even years,
can exacerbate preexisting mental health issues and sometimes trigger new ones,
making it extremely challenging for women to cope with their circumstances.
The physical health effects of solitary confinement are also concerning. In
isolated cells, women have limited access to physical exercise, natural light,
and proper nutrition. The stressful environment of isolation can weaken the
immune system, making individuals more vulnerable to illnesses.
medical care and the heightened stress levels can result in deteriorating
physical health, and the overall lack of human contact can lead to feelings of
alienation and despair. Moreover, the combination of mental and physical health
challenges can create a vicious cycle, where declining mental health exacerbates
physical health issues and vice versa, making the experience in solitary
confinement even more detrimental.
Beyond the immediate mental and physical effects, the impact of solitary
confinement extends to the prospects for rehabilitation and successful
reintegration into society. Women in solitary confinement often have limited
access to educational, vocational, or therapeutic programs that are essential
for addressing the root causes of their criminal behavior and preparing them for
a productive life after release.
This lack of rehabilitation opportunities can
impede personal growth and skill development, hindering their ability to
reintegrate into their communities effectively. Additionally, the social
isolation experienced in solitary confinement can lead to difficulties in
socializing and relating to others, further complicating their ability to adapt
to life outside of prison once they are released.
Furthermore, some studies
suggest that the use of solitary confinement may increase the risk of
recidivism, as individuals who have endured isolation may struggle to
reintegrate into their communities and are more likely to reengage in criminal
These detrimental consequences have led to growing calls for reform
and a reconsideration of the use of solitary confinement, particularly for
vulnerable populations like women prisoners. Reforms seek to prioritize more
humane and rehabilitative approaches to incarceration, ensuring that
incarcerated women are treated with dignity and are given the support they need
to successfully reintegrate into society upon their release.
Recommendations against Solitary Confinement
Numerous human rights organizations, experts, and advocates have put forth
recommendations to limit or eliminate the use of solitary confinement due to its
detrimental effects on individuals' mental and physical well-being. These
recommendations often emphasize more humane and effective approaches to managing
incarcerated populations. Some of the common recommendations against solitary
- Implement strict limits on the use of solitary confinement, reserving it
only for extreme cases where there is a genuine and immediate threat to the
safety and security of the facility.
- In solitary confinement mentally ill prisoners should never be kept.
Solitary confinement exacerbates mental illness and harms already vulnerable
prisoners by subjecting them to sensory and social deprivation. Mentally ill
prisoners should receive treatment and programming appropriate to their
mental health needs.
- Establish clear and specific time limits for how long an individual can
be held in solitary confinement. Prolonged isolation is particularly harmful
and should be avoided.
- Transgender women must be protected both from violence in general
population and from the dangers of solitary confinement. Enforce PREA standards for
transgender individuals by evaluating each case individually, with a strong
focus on placing transgender women in female facilities when appropriate.
Corrections officials must protect vulnerable prisoners without the use of
damaging isolation. Individuals requiring extra protection in a correctional
environment should have access to the same programs, privileges, and services
available to prisoners in general population.
- Pregnant and nursing women should never be held in solitary confinement,
as this practice is both inhumane as well as medically unsound. The risk of
placing pregnant and nursing women in solitary confinement cannot be
- As a retaliatory measure solitary confinement should never be imposed.
Prisons and jails must ensure that policy and practice abide by this
principle and that staff training and disciplinary measures include clear
regulations that retaliatory use of solitary confinement will not be
tolerated. Qualified PREA
auditors should also be specifically tasked with ensuring that inmate reports of
abuse are seriously investigated and that such reports are not met with
retaliatory solitary confinement.
- Develop and promote alternative strategies for addressing inmate
behavior, such as positive reinforcement, behavioral therapy, and conflict
- Conduct thorough and regular assessments of inmates to identify mental
health issues, vulnerabilities, or other factors that may make them
unsuitable for placement in solitary confinement.
- Ensure transparency in the use of solitary confinement and provide
access to independent oversight and monitoring mechanisms to prevent abuse.
- All prisons and jails should be required to regularly and publicly
report details of individuals in solitary confinement, including number,
gender, reason, alternatives available, reason alternatives are not used,
duration, details of regular checks and other information. Correctional
systems should be subject to strict reporting and accountability measures
that limit, monitor and standardize the reasons why prisoners are sent to
solitary confinement. Because there are no state or federal uniform data
available, the extent of this problem cannot be ascertained.
- Improve the conditions of solitary confinement units, including access
to natural light, proper ventilation, and regular opportunities for exercise
- Ensure that individuals in solitary confinement have access to mental
health care, including regular evaluations and treatment when needed.
- Women should undergo mental and medical health evaluations by competent
and qualified mental and medical health practitioners to assess their
condition before any placement in solitary confinement. Women's histories of
mental illness, trauma, abuse, and sexual assault should be taken into
account before they are placed in solitary confinement and should
appropriately inform decisions to divert women from such confinement.
Appropriate mental health programming, including counseling should be
provided to women who have experienced sexual assault. Women who are
vulnerable to re-traumatization should
be guarded by female correctional officers.
- Train correctional staff on de-escalation techniques, mental health
awareness, and the humane treatment of inmates.
- Collect and analyze data on the use of solitary confinement, including
demographic information, reasons for placement, and the duration of
isolation, to identify trends and potential disparities.
- Advocate for changes in legislation and correctional policies to align
with best practices and human rights standards, including the United Nations
Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules).
- Raise public awareness about the harmful effects of solitary confinement
and build support for reform efforts.
- Strengthen legal protections against the use of solitary confinement for
vulnerable populations, such as juveniles, individuals with mental
illnesses, pregnant women, and those with disabilities.
- Provide support and resources for individuals transitioning out of
solitary confinement to facilitate their successful reintegration into the
general prison population or society upon release.
- Allow all prisoners to have in-person visits with children under 18, and
promote family visitation. On prisoners' rehabilitation and on the
well-being of their children, robust visitation privileges have been shown
to have a positive impact. Visitation with children helps to create a more
stable environment for children whose lives have been seriously upended by
having a parent in prison.
- From solitary confinement prisoners should never be directly sent to
community. To promote successful reentry, correctional institutions should
ensure that step-down programs to less restrictive environments are
available to all prisoners in solitary confinement prior to release without
extending the length of an individual's sentence.
- All prisons and jails should be required to have uniform written
policies controlling solitary confinement practices and procedures. These
policies must be public and include a written notification process that
informs inmates of their placement in solitary confinement, the reason,
duration, and opportunities for review; the processes by which an inmate can
obtain solitary confinement privileges, including access to commissary and
visits; and the process by which an inmate can earn his or her own release
from solitary confinement.
These recommendations emphasize the need to strike a balance between maintaining
security in correctional facilities and respecting the human rights and dignity
of incarcerated individuals. Advocates continue to work towards reforming
correctional practices to minimize the use of solitary confinement and ensure
that it is only employed as a last resort, under strict safeguards, focusing on
reintegration and rehabilitation.
Solitary confinement of women prisoners in jails is a practice where
incarcerated women are isolated in small, often windowless cells for an extended
period, typically 22 to 24 hours a day. This form of confinement is highly
restrictive, with limited human contact and minimal access to educational,
recreational, or therapeutic programs.
The reasons for placing women in solitary confinement may vary and can include
disciplinary measures, administrative segregation for their own protection, or
other reasons determined by prison authorities. Women in solitary confinement
often face significant challenges, including the potential for adverse
psychological effects such as anxiety, depression, and hallucinations. Moreover,
it has been criticized for its potential to exacerbate existing mental health
Concerns about the use of solitary confinement for women prisoners have led to
increased scrutiny and calls for reform in many countries. Advocates argue for
more humane and rehabilitative approaches to managing inmate behavior and
addressing safety concerns while minimizing the use of isolation. These reforms
seek to ensure that women prisoners are treated with dignity and provided with
the necessary support and resources to successfully reintegrate into society
Written By: Md. Imran Wahab
- Reports of all 60 Superintendents of Correctional Homes of West Bengal
, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected]
, Ph no: 9836576565