More than 80,000 are held in prolonged solitary each day despite research demonstrating clear and lasting mental, psychological, and physical damage
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Representatives David Trone (D-MD) and Stephanie Bice (R-OK) introduced a bill that would create a bipartisan commission to study the current practices and long term effects of solitary confinement on individuals, their families, and their broader communities. Across the nation, there has been a 500 percent increase in the use of solitary confinement since 2020, despite studies that have shown that solitary has no impact on keeping prisons safer.
Conversely, research has consistently demonstrated the overwhelmingly disastrous, and often deadly effects solitary confinement can have on individuals. These consequences include increased depression, psychological disorders, chronic pain, loss of vision, and premature death. Since 2011, the United Nations has called for a ban on the use of prolonged solitary confinement citing it as a form of torture. The commission would be tasked with examining these outcomes with the expressed aim of reducing the use of prolonged solitary nationwide.
In studying the use of solitary confinement in federal and state correctional facilities, as well as local jails, the commission would develop standards that ensure the end of prolonged solitary confinement in federal prisons, create regulations for best practices that would be uniformly adopted by federal agencies, and implement a system to track disaggregated data on current and future use of all forms of administrative segregation.
Advocates, many of whom worked closely with sponsors to craft the bill, applaud the bill’s introduction as a step toward ending prolonged solitary confinement throughout the nation’s prisons and jails. “Ending solitary confinement in the federal prison system is especially important because people in federal custody are shipped around the country, severing ties with family, community, and other supports. They are already being punished through exile and isolation,” said Patrice Sultan, Executive Director of the DC Justice Lab. “Additionally, this federal legislation will pave the way for states to take action to end torture in their own jails and prisons and to find alternatives to isolation.”
An innovative provision seeks to incentivize states to develop and implement those alternatives. States that adopt the commission’s regulations will become eligible for community-based grants totaling $20 million to develop alternative programs to treat mental health disorders and substance abuse.
The bill has widespread bipartisan support among advocate organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans For Prosperity, Center for Constitutional Rights, Due Process Institute, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, R Street Institure, Unlock the Box, and the Vera Institute for Justice. As advocates, we look forward to working with Reps. Trone and Bice, as well as the co-sponsors, to ensure quick and timely passage of this critical bill.
Contact: Jessica Sandoval • Unlock the Box Campaign • firstname.lastname@example.org