Article from Reno Gazette Journal
The use of solitary confinement in the U.S. dates back to the early 1820s when prison architects created the “separate system.”
In this system, all cells throughout an institution were designed to hold individual prisoners in solitary confinement. Inmates did not interact with or even see other prisoners. It was thought that inmates would be reformed through forced reflection (with nothing else to occupy them), which in turn would lead to penitence and the desire to be law-abiding.
This approach to achieving public safety and offender reform failed. Offenders suffered serious mental breakdowns and had high rates of recidivism. Criticisms of the inhumanity of the separate system led to its disuse.