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10. Prisons and Human Rights: the Case of Solitary Confinement in Denmark and the US from the 1820S until Today

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Chapter Summary

This chapter traces the history, ideology and practice of solitary confinement in Denmark and the United States (US), and views these findings in a human rights perspective. Following the Second World War – and apparently especially since the 1980s – the critique of solitary confinement became part of a human rights agenda. From the 1770s to the 1850s, the ideology of the modern penitentiary (the modern prison system) established itself. From the 1860s especially, a sceptical attitude evolved towards the conception of “rehabilitation through isolation”, and the ideology of the modern penitentiary faced a serious crisis. While supermax prisons have clearly inherited elements from nineteenth-century penitentiaries, their more recent history is generally considered to begin with the October 1983 lockdown in Marion penitentiary in Illinois, following the killing of two prison guards in two different situations on the same day.

Keywords: Denmark; human rights; modern penitentiary; prisons; solitary confinement; United States (US)



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