More than 100 organizations from across the United States sent an open letter to President Obama Friday calling for the elimination of long-term and indefinite solitary confinement.
The signatories – including civil and human rights groups, religious organizations, and groups of defense attorneys and mental health professionals – ask the President to take quick and decisive action following the attention he gave the issue earlier this summer.
We applaud your recent historic remarks recognizing that solitary confinement does nothing to rehabilitate those who are incarcerated. We also welcome your announcement that the U.S. Attorney General will conduct a national review of the practice in prisons and jails across the United States. We are writing to urge that this review result in recommendations that create a clear pathway toward the elimination of the use of long-term and indefinite isolation in the United States.
In a speech in July to the NAACP, Obama said he has asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to start a review of the overuse of solitary in US prisons. “Social science shows that an environment like that is often more likely to make inmates more alienated, more hostile, potentially more violent,” Obama said. “Do we really think it makes sense to lock so many people alone in tiny cells for 23 hours a day for months, sometime for years at a time?” The speech was the first time the issue was ever directly addressed by the President.
The open letter to Obama highlights a number of government reviews of solitary that have already shown the overuse and abuse of solitary, including two congressional hearings, a report by the Government Accountability Office and an audit of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) earlier this year. The BOP audit was criticized for its significant limitations, but did call for modest reform of the practice, including eliminating its use for people with serious mental illness and as a form of protective custody, as well limiting the amount of time people can spend in solitary.
The signatories of the letter call on the President to immediately implement the auditors’ recommendations and ensure that the national review prioritizes humane alternatives to solitary.
The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • A Louisiana judge has rejected efforts by the lawyers of Albert Woodfox, the last member of the Angola Three still behind bars, to throw out his indictment or have his trial […]
Men incarcerated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola, are suing prison officials and the Louisiana Department of Corrections for failing to provide adequate healthcare to the more than 6,000 people currently held there. In a scathing, 63-page complaint, lawyers representing Angola’s prison population allege that men are routinely denied appropriate medical care, resulting in “unnecessary pain and […]
The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • The New York Times outlined a possible case the Supreme Court may take to determine the constitutionality of solitary confinement. The legal challenge, brought by Virginia prisoner Alfredo Prieto, […]
Last month, the Community Legal Aid Society Inc. (CLASI), along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed a lawsuit against the head of the Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) over the department’s treatment of incarcerated people suffering from mental illness. CLASI argues that the DOC’s current practices violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. […]
The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • Wisconsin’s Badger Herald published an article on the use of solitary confinement in the state. Although the state has reduced its use of isolation, critics and advocates maintain that […]
The following article originally appeared on Counterpunch. A Solitary Watch investigation into the sites of the federal government’s two “supermax” facilities—the first open for two decades, the second slated to open soon—reveals a number of possible serious environmental hazards. The prisons, ADX Florence in Colorado and AUSP Thomson in Illinois, are built to hold men […]
Prison officials across the country dedicated themselves to reducing the use of solitary confinement as they released a ground-breaking survey showing as many as 100,000 people were in solitary as of last fall. “Prolonged isolation of individuals in jails and prisons is a grave problem in the United States,” said a press release by the […]
The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • Coverage continued of the landmark settlement reached in California. The New York Times published an editorial supporting the development, and a Guardian story featured the stories and experiences of […]
How influential were the three hunger strikes held by California prisoners in spurring the sweeping changes to solitary confinement policies that were announced yesterday? The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has repeatedly stated that they were already planning to reform long-term solitary confinement before the hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013. But internal documents obtained […]
California prison officials have agreed to limit the practice of long-term solitary confinement, four years after the first hunger strike began in protest of the practice. Under a historic agreement reached in the Ashker v. Brown suit between the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of individuals in […]
The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports, and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • A 68-year-old woman from North Carolina was arrested and put in solitary as punishment for having walked away from a halfway house almost 40 years ago because of […]