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

Hilary Krase,
ACLU National Prison Project
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March 12, 2013

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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