Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik says that he considers solitary confinement to be cruel and unusual punishment, and that it's important to consider the long-term effects of how prisoners are treated, especially those who will return to society.
"There's a purpose and a use for solitary confinement," Kerik told J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV
on Wednesday, joined by Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.
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"I ran Rikers Island for six years. I took it from one of the most mismanaged, dangerous and violent jail systems in the country to an international model for efficiency, accountability and safety," he explained.
"There's a use for solitary — if you have threats to an institution, if you have threats to staff, threats to national security, escape risks, there may be a use for it," he said.
"But when you take young men who commit institutional infractions and you stick them in solitary — I went to solitary confinement, I was told, for protective custody — it is mind-altering, cruel and unusual punishment for people to be put in solitary with no real purpose, with no real need that are not a threat to the institution's staff," he said.
Kerik just released the book, "From Jailer to Jailed: My Journey from Correction and Police Commissioner to Inmate #84888-054,"
in which he details the time he spent in prison after being convicted on ethics charges.
The former NYPD commissioner told Newsmax that in solitary confinement "you hallucinate and you talk to yourself. No one understands what it's like until you've been there, and we, in this country, use it way too much."
The problem, he contends, is that "you create monsters in prison and sometimes we forget they got to go back to society. Most people that are in prison are returning back to society."
"Do we want them returning back to society warped?" he asked. "No, I don't think so."
Kerik told Newsmax that he also witnessed problems with the type of people that are serving time in prison for relatively minor offenses.
"It's not just drug offenders. It's people that go to prison that don't need prison to learn their lesson or pay for their mistakes," he explained.
"You have commercial fishermen that caught too many fish or the fish was too big. You have people in prisons in America today that went hunting and shot the wrong animal at the wrong time or used the wrong size or type of arrow bow hunting," he explained.
"You have these young, first-time, nonviolent drug offenders sitting in prison for 10 or 15 years," he said.
"It is destroying society," he contends.
"People belong in prison. I put a lot of people in prison — bad people that did bad things," Kerik explained.
"But then I went to prison and met all these other people that really could've been dealt with by paying fines, paying restitution, home confinement, work release, paying taxes and taking care of their families," he said.
"Yet, what are they doing? They're sitting in prison, costing the American taxpayer billions of dollars over the reported cost of incarceration," he added. "It's not good for America."
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