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The Annual New York City High School Essay Contest created by the Law Related Education Committee came to an end May 4 with the awards ceremony. Junior Nancy Yone won first place and $1,000 for her essay submission.
The topic of the essay was solitary confinement and the prompt was “Does solitary confinement constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the U.S. Constitution? Yes or no?” Social Studies teacher John O’Malley has his students enter this contest and conduct an in-class debate to further develop their arguments. When asked about the value of students entering writing contests, Mr. O’Malley expressed, “It’s a good thing for students to enter these writing contests to hone their writing skills.”
Nancy took a stance against solitary confinement and wrote that “solitary confinement is indeed a “cruel and unusual” punishment due to its pernicious psychological and physiological effects on prisoners.
“I believe that it should either be banned entirely or that regulation of the placement of prisoners in prolonged solitary confinement should be more strictly regulated,” she added.
Aside from just writing an essay for a class or a contest, Nancy felt “a connection to this issue.”
“A lot of the effects describe the extent to which this type of punishment affects one’s mental health, and this caught my attention because I’m very much interested in psychology and human behaviors.” From this essay and the research involved, Nancy said that she would be interested in pursuing research in this field later on.
When asked about what she will take away from this great experience, Nancy voiced, “This experience definitely made me more aware of the pressing issues currently being debated in our nation…I think that awareness of such an issue is very important, and so I’m glad I got the opportunity to learn more about it.”