“I believe strongly that solitary confinement is overused and can be counterproductive.” – President Barack Obama, January 5, 2016
President Obama also explains many of the problems with solitary confinement in a Washington Post Op-Ed.
From this week’s essay:
One important step in that direction is how we approached reforming policies on “restrictive housing,” a practice more commonly described as solitary confinement.90. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 inmates in U.S. prisons are currently held in solitary confinement — a figure that includes juveniles and people with mental illness.91. Of these, as many as 25,000 are in long-term solitary confinement, which involves months if not years with almost no human contact.92. I believe strongly that solitary confinement is overused and can be counterproductive.93. Id. Studies suggest it can have profound negative consequences, exacerbating mental illness and undermining the goals of rehabilitation.94.
That is why in 2015, I directed my Attorney General to review the use of restrictive housing 95. and in January 2016, I directed DOJ to implement important reforms — including a series of concrete “guiding principles” — to the way that solitary confinement is used in the federal prison system.96. Id. These reforms include banning solitary confinement for juveniles, prohibiting its use as a response to low-level infractions, expanding treatment of those with mental illness, increasing the amount of time inmates spend out of their cells, and ensuring inmates are not released into communities directly from solitary confinement.97. Id. These steps will affect almost 10,000 federal prisoners — and are expected to serve as a model for state and local facilities.98. Obama, supra note 92. In addition, DOJ is working to encourage states to reduce their use of solitary confinement.
References from the above excerpt:
.90 OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY ATT’Y GEN., U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS CONCERNING THE USE OF RESTRICTIVE HOUSING 6 (2016), https://www.justice.gov/dag/file/815551/download [https://perma.cc/R8SR-QZRH].
.91 ASS’N OF STATE CORR. ADM’RS, TIME-IN-CELL: THE ASCA LIMAN 2014 NATIONAL SURVEY OF ADMINISTRATIVE SEGREGATION IN PRISON 3 (2015), https://www.law.yale.edu/system/files/area/center/liman/document/asca-liman_administrativesegregationreport.pdf [https://perma.cc/M9L2-PSTU].
.92 Barack Obama, Opinion, Why We Must Rethink Solitary Confinement, WASH. POST (Jan. 25, 2016), https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/barack-obama-why-we-must-rethink-solitary-confinement/2016/01/25/29a361f2-c384-11e5-8965-0607e0e265ce_story.html [https://perma.cc/3Y3V-XUMS].
.94. Id.; see also Davis v. Ayala, 135 S. Ct. 2187, 2210 (2015) (Kennedy, J., concurring) (“[R]esearch still confirms what this Court suggested over a century ago: Years on end of near-total isolation exact a terrible price.” (citing Stuart Grassian, Psychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement, 22 WASH. U. J.L. & POL’Y 325 (2006)))
.95 Press Release, Office of the Press Sec’y, FACT SHEET: Department of Justice Review of Solitary Confinement (Jan. 25, 2016), https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/01/25/fact-sheet-department-justice-review-solitary-confinement [https://perma.cc/G27J-XB9A].