ACLU to Testify Today: Solitary Confinement is a Human Rights Violation Happening on U.S. Soil

The world will get a glimpse this week into how the United States treats those we lock in solitary confinement, when the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hears ACLU testimonies on how our treatment of vulnerable prisoners violates international human rights norms. The short story: we should be ashamed. For a more detailed picture, check back throughout the week for an ongoing blog series on the issue.

Both domestically and abroad, there is an increasing recognition of the negative effects of prolonged solitary confinement – yet this harmful practice still occurs in our own backyard.

Today the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will hear testimony on the overuse and harmful effects of this practice in the Americas. Starting at 11:30 a.m., the ACLU will testify about solitary in the United States and, with Human Rights Watch, on the solitary confinement of kids in adult jails and prisons. Other organizations, including the Center for Constitutional Rights and Physicians for Human Rights, have submitted testimony to the IACHR urging the Commission to review the use of solitary confinement in the United States.

Additionally, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, will testify on the use of solitary confinement in the Americas. Méndez has called on all countries to ban the use of solitary confinement except in exceptional circumstances. He acknowledges that prolonged isolation can amount to torture and recommends a complete prohibition on the use of solitary confinement exceeding a period of 15 days.

While the hearing is taking place, 80,000 prisoners will be suffering in solitary confinement settings. This means that tens of thousands of prisoners’ chances of rehabilitation will be diminished. Languishing in solitary, they will experience negative psychological effects, such as depression and hallucinations. While this hearing is taking place, American prisons will continue to engage in this egregious affront to human rights on our own soil.

The hearing is open to the public and press. It will take place today, March 12, from 11:30-12:30 EST in the Ruben Dario Room on the 8th Floor of the OAS (at 1889 F. St. NW). The hearing will also be webcast and tweeted live.

The IACHR will hear testimony from the ACLU, the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, and United Nations Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez. Additionally, the ACLU of Maine, the ACLU of Florida and Florida Institutional Legal Services, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and coalition partners Centro de Estudios Legales Y Sociales, the American University International Human Rights Law Clinic, the Center for Constitutional Rights , the Children's Law Center, the National Immigrant Justice Center, Physicians for Human Rights, and Conectas all submitted written testimony.

Other posts in the series:

Progress in Maine

Sad State in Florida

Solitary in New York

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Thank goodness this is happening, being trapped in a cell without anything but cement will certainly lead to suicide. Its cruel, inhumane and the United States does it regularly. 90% of federal detainee's are from non-violent crimes.
-P.S. thank goodness I was only in solitary as a pre-trial detainee. I was released after 25 hours with only high-blood pressure problems, PTSD, and other mental difficulties.

Concerned Citizen

The disparities even within Florida counties are marked.

The conditions of pretrial detention certainly are in violation of a constitutional magnitude.

Solitary confinement in some counties, so called suicide wings in some Florida County jails are used clearly to punish as an adjunct to the stated purpose of security. Although mentally ill, such confinement is without any psychiatric/medical input or consultation. Confined for months in a cell stripped to shorts and nothing else , let out for 1/2 every 3 days to shower, brush teeth, etc: No ability to write even to the court.

It's no wonder months later, these people will then be found incompetent to proceed after such confinement,even for petty offenses that would have been normally been dismissed or resolved had they been provided appropriate and state mandated procedure. Many Florida rules of procedures and statutes are simply ignored to the prejudice of the individual.

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