Worse Than Second-Class: Solitary Confinement of Women in the United States

Document Date: June 28, 2019

This report provides an updated look on women held in solitary confinement in the United States. Since the ACLU published its first report on women in solitary in 2014, some things have changed —but many things have not. More attention has been placed on women in prison and on solitary confinement in general, but still, little attention has been paid to the specific plight of women in solitary confinement. Vulnerable populations, including pregnant people and women with mental illness, are still being placed into solitary confinement, and not enough is being done to enforce limitations on such placements.

This current report provides facts and data about women in solitary confinement in general, as well as specific populations of women who are especially vulnerable to the harms of solitary confinement, including girls, older women, transgender women, and women in immigrant detention. We also share insights from interviews with three survivors of solitary confinement and a clinical social worker about the experiences and impact of solitary confinement. Finally, the report includes both “reasons to hope”—reforms that have limited the use of solitary confinement in the United States—and recommendations for what must be done to continue combating this urgent, pervasive problem. It is critical to address the treatment of women in prison— especially those women subjected to the social and sensory deprivation of solitary confinement.

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