A SOLITARY CAMPAIGN

Unlock the Box is the national campaign to end long-term solitary confinement in the United States and to come into complete compliance with the UN’s Mandela Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners by 2031.  

We accomplish our mission working simultaneously on local and national levels with survivors, advocates, legislators, and community organizations dedicated to ending state-sponsored torture.    Unlock The Box and it’s partners are changing the national conversation, demanding lawmakers adhere to the suggestions laid out by the world’s leader on Human Rights, the United Nations. 

Unlock the Box compiles research and educational materials to spread awareness about this state-sponsored torture and to inspire people like you to fight for meaningful change to our criminal justice system. 

WHAT WE BELIEVE

Change on this issue may happen one prison system at a time, and it may not come quickly or easily—but we are approaching a tipping point, and with persistence and resources, it will come. The arc of history bends toward justice, and is on our side.

CREATING A TIPPING POINT

A Strategy For Change

People of color are often disproportionately subjected to solitary confinement, over and beyond their disproportionate representation in the general prison population. Ending solitary confinement requires navigation and resolution of these inequities and the racial bias driving them.

Conversation

Facilitating and steering the national conversation surrounding solitary confinement and its alternatives is key to creating an informed public and a reformed prison system. 

Minors

Solitary confinement has lasting psychological effects on the brain, particularly on the undeveloped brains of minors.  Our first step is prohibiting the use of solitary confinement for anyone under the age of 21

legislation

Passing legislation that addresses the use of solitary confinement it as the forefront of our strategy.  We must ensure there are national standards that can be applied at the state level.

the vulnerable

Ensuring that solitary confinement is not used on our most vulnerable populations such as the mentally ill, elderly, LGBTQ, and pregnant women.


Mobilization

Policy is personal.  Alongside passing legislation, we are mobilizing survivors, advocates, prison guards, and other stakeholders to speak out, be heard, and be a part of the anti-solitary revolution. 

National Standards

Ensuring the federal government lays out national standards, based on the UN’s Mandela Rules, so that every state can legislate within humane and ethical standards.

 

OUR TEAM

Our steering committee is comprised of members from partner organizations across the nation. Partnering with these impactful groups helps us stay informed to the unique challenges of each state and population, while allowing us to guide meaningful policy change at a national level. 

TIME'S UP FOR SOLITARY

The United States has been complicit in allowing state-sponsored torture for far too long.  The time for solitary is up and Unlock The Box is employing a bold strategy to eradicate the use of long-term solitary confinement in the United States over the next ten years.  

 

Importantly, we are also demanding that all forms of solitary confinement are prohibited for minors, pregnant women and new mothers, the elderly, and those living with mental illness.  

 

These changes would put the United States in full compliance with the United Nation’s mandate for humane treatment of prisoners, also known as The Mandela Rules.  

 

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Achieving the Mandela Rules

Protecting Minors
Solitary confinement has lasting psychological effects on the brain, particularly on the undeveloped brains of minors.  Our first step is prohibiting the use of solitary confinement for anyone under the age of 21
Protecting Vulnerable Populations
Promoting legislation that bans the use of solitary confinement on vulnerable populations including the elderly, severely mentally ill, LGBTQ, and pregnant women. These are populations that are significantly vulnerable and most in need of our protection.
Creating the Tipping Point
Writing, legislating, lobbying for, and ultimately passing legislation in 26 states (51% of the US), to encourage a tipping point in legislation against the use of solitary confinement.
Ensuring Transparency
A key goal in our legislative movement is ensure that prisons have third party oversight when employing solitary confinement and that there is transparency in all correctional facilities about when and how the practice is used.
Enforcing National Standards
Having national standards that follow the guidelines set out in the Mandela Rules will ensure that states have flexibility to create their own policies, while ensuring they do so humanely and ethically.
Changing the Conversation
Unlock The Box and it's partners believe in the power of the people and community. Changing the conversation around solitary confinement and sharing our research is the first step in transforming the conversation around the punishment paradigm.
Total Compliance
Success for us looks like a nation-wide legislative acceptance of The Mandela Rules, Shifting the National Conversation of the Punishment Paradigm, and Ensuring complete transparency and third-party oversight in all uses of solitary confinement in the United States.
Minors
Vulnerable Populations
The Tipping Point
Transparency and Oversight
National Standards
Let's Talk It Out
Ensuring Mandela

the Mandela Rules

The United Nations is urging the United States to comply with The Mandela Rules for the Humane Treatment of Prisoners. 

Unlock The Box joins the voices of those who believe that the way we treat our incarcerated peoples is a reflection on our society as a whole. 

Rules 43, 44, and 45 of the Mandela Rules specifically speak to solitary confinement.  

In no circumstances may restrictions or disciplinary sanctions amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The following practices, in particular, shall be prohibited:

(a)  Indefinite solitary confinement;
(b)  Prolonged solitary confinement;
(c)  Placement of a prisoner in a dark or constantly lit cell;
(d)  Corporal punishment or the reduction of a prisoner’s diet or drinking water;

(e) Collective punishment.

 

Disciplinary sanctions or restrictive measures shall not include the prohibition of family contact. The means of family contact may only be restricted for a limited time period and as strictly required for the maintenance of security and order.

For the purpose of these rules, solitary confinement shall refer to the confinement of prisoners for 22 hours or more a day without meaningful human contact.

Prolonged solitary confinement shall refer to solitary confinement for a time period in excess of 15 consecutive days.

1. Solitary confinement shall be used only in exceptional cases as a last resort, for as short a time as possible and subject to independent review, and only pursuant to the authorization by a competent authority. It shall not be imposed by virtue of a prisoner’s sentence.

 

2. The imposition of solitary confinement should be prohibited in the case of prisoners with mental or physical disabilities when their conditions would be exacerbated by such measures. The prohibition of the use of solitary confinement and similar measures in cases involving women and children, as referred to in other United Nations standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice,28 continues to apply. 

Prolonged solitary confinement shall refer to solitary confinement for a time period in excess of 15 consecutive days.

Our Partners

Our steering committee is comprised of members from partner organizations across the nation. Partnering with these impactful groups helps us stay informed to the unique challenges of each state and population, while allowing us to guide meaningful policy change at a national level. 

OUR LOCATIONS

Unlock The Box currently supports anti-solitary confinement groups in 13 states across the nation.  We help with funding, policy change assistance, technical assistance, and other resources.  Click on each state to see what we’re doing and our past successes.  Maybe your state will be next!

END TORTURE NOW

Join the movement to ban solitary confinement in the United States.  We’ll send you monthly newsletters and more ways to get involved. 

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