A report is out from Loyola, the ACLU, and Solitary Watch, showing Louisiana has a four times higher rate of the use of solitary confinement for prisoners than the national average. Loyola Jesuit Social Research Institute Research Fellow Dr. Sue Weishar says over 500 prisoners in their survey reported solitary stays of more than a year, which she describes as torture.

“They start to experience perceptual distortions and illusions and hallucinations. They have panic attacks and become paranoid. They have this terrible sense of hopelessness.”

The survey was based on 709 inmates in solitary, from across all nine of the state’s prisons.

Weishar says the practice undermines the goal of rehabilitation because the intense mental and physical stress created by extended stays creates long term damage.

“Ultimately it backfires on us all because most people will be leaving prison and because of solitary confinement, they will be leaving in a worse state than when they entered.”

30 percent of respondents to the survey reported solitary confinement of more than five years.

Weishar says the abnormally high rate of solitary use is the result of poor policy from the Department of Corrections, and the report authors are demanding change.

“We’re calling on the state to immediately end this overuse of solitary confinement, and begin a policy of six months of solitary confinement at the most.”

Corrections responded, saying 3.75 percent of prisoners are in “restrictive housing” at the moment, and the number of those beds has been reduced by a thousand over the last two years reforms.