Obama Puts Solitary Confinement on Notice

The American people got a wake-up call yesterday from President Barack Obama about solitary confinement, a barbaric practice that’s routine in our country’s prisons, jails, and juvenile detention centers. The White House delivered a new report on solitary from the Department of Justice and a simultaneous pledge in an op-ed by the president to sharply reduce federal prisons’ reliance on this inhumane practice.

For state and local jails and prisons across the country, the Justice Department presents its first-ever guide to cutting back on solitary — principles the president endorsed.

On any given day, as many as 100,000 people in U.S. prisons are held in solitary, where they are deprived of almost all human interaction, often sustaining permanent psychological damage. Many solitary survivors — like Reginald Dwayne Betts, Anthony Graves, and James Burns — left prison long ago but remain haunted by their days, months, and years in the hole.

In his op-ed, the president doesn’t mince words about solitary’s dangers — not only to prisoners’ mental health but to the world they must reenter when they’ve served their time:

How can we subject prisoners to unnecessary solitary confinement, knowing its effects, and then expect them to return to our communities as whole people? It doesn’t make us safer. It’s an affront to our common humanity.

President Obama has also committed to the recommendations in the Department of Justice report targeting solitary in the federal prison system. For the estimated 10,000 people in solitary in those prisons, the changes will be dramatic:

  • Solitary cells will no longer hold people with serious mental illnesses who ought to be in treatment, not in draconian conditions that make their conditions worse and too often contribute to self-harm and suicide.
  • Youth under 18 won’t be sent to solitary, where the adolescent brain is at high risk for permanent damage. 
  • Transgendered prisoners, those with physical disabilities, and other vulnerable people won’t find themselves in solitary for no other reason than “their own protection” from other prisoners; instead special units for vulnerable prisoners will be created.
  • Nonviolent infractions and other minor rule breaking — like talking back to an officer or refusing a new cell assignment — won’t be punishable by solitary.

The goal for both the federal prison reforms and the principles aimed at the states is to make solitary the very last resort for prison officials. For years, that vision — solitary reduced to a rarity or eliminated altogether — has motivated the ACLU, the faith community, human rights leaders like UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez, prisoners and their families, and the many others in the movement against solitary confinement. Increasingly, lawmakers and corrections officials are joining us in recognizing solitary’s harms, to prisoners but also to society.

With the Justice Department’s report and President Obama’s reforms, we have even more hope that this country can leave solitary behind. 

View comments (12)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous

wow

Anonymous

My Son has been In Protective Custody since 12/14. He was charged with attempted assault (wanted to plea not guilty, take polygraph test) was told no jury would believe him. Wife has mental, drug and alcohol issues. He has been to Hell and back since this charge. I would like someone to explain to me why the inmates must be moved from one facility to another every 90 days? Was told its against the law to keep them in one facility after 90 days. BUT, through the transition from one facility to another they are treated worse than animals. No toilet facilities, showers, sleeping on floor with a blanket for 10-12 hrs. This is in a Medical Building in which you have to knock and knock and knock on door to use toilet. WHAT???? The facility is Called ISO Tank. Understanding Protective Custody is extremely overflowing to the extent of Ridiculous!!!!. The SPCA would be a much better solution for them. I would appreciate a response ASAP. Thank You.

Anonymous

It's a great effort by President Obama but the weak link since the so-called "War on Drugs" have been judges and U.S. Supreme Court justices.

The Judicial Branch has no higher responsibilty than their constitutional duty to be "Guardians of the Constiution" as clearly defined by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers. Hamilton spells out their duty in precise detail in these essays that were used to explain American government to it's citizens.

If the Judicial Branch "checks" the constitutionality of the other two branches it actually helps the politicians by providing political cover.

Ex: the politician can pretend to support tough guy policies but the courts ruled their policies "out of bounds" constitutionally.

Anonymous

How can i report a prison facility for violating the health code?

Anonymous

They may be able to help you or direct you to the right people:
Office of the ombudsman:

http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Ombuds/

Anonymous

Here is more info:
http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Ombuds/health.html

Anonymous

Ammon Bundy is in solitary confinement(since January 27, 2016) in the Portland, OR Multnomah Jail without grounds to be held. Why is this not being checked on. He isn't getting his 1 hour everyday out of the confinement. This is a great injustice to prove a point, and not humane. Please check on this!!!

Forrest Evans

Lawrence D. Evans has been in the "Hole" and held without charge for the past 17 months in High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs, Nevada as retaliation for his filing suit against High Desert State Prison staff who shot him with a shotgun in January of 2012.

HDSP has been all over the news nationwide as of late for their routine practice of beating, shooting, abusing and killing inmates and covering it up.

This inhumane institution should be shut down and these so-called prison staff should be arrested and brought to trial for their assault, batteries, killings, and violations of inmate civil rights just as any other individual on the "outside" would be.

Anonymous

FREE THE BUNDY's HAMMOND'S and OTHERS IN NEVADA And PETE SANTILLI

4Tony#thesystem...

9 months in solitary 'the hole' not long after he committed suicide.

Pages

Stay Informed