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 2028.  

Our strategy is employed on the local and national levels.  From a local perspective, we empower state-wide organizations and help grassroots organizations better mobilize through funding, technical assistance, and resource sharing.  On a national level, we lead the conversation about the culture of solitary confinement and use our reach to influence, educate, and change the national attitudes around the practice.

Unlock the Box also works with partners to compile 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. 


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.

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. 

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.

Rules 43, 44, and 45 explicitly address 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. 

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achieving our Goals

Protecting Minors
The first step is to eradicate the use of solitary confinement for all minors.
Protecting Vulnerable Populations
Next, we're focusing on legislation that bans the use of solitary confinement on vulnerable populations including the elderly, severely mentally ill, LGBTQ, and pregnant women.
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 regards to all uses of solitary confinement in the United States.
Vulnerable Populations
The Tipping Point
Transparency and Oversight
National Standards
Let's Talk It Out
Ensuring Mandela


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. 


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!


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



SEPTEMBER 15, 2022

don't miss the boxed in event


Figures Exceed Previous Counts Because They Include All People in Solitary in Prisons and Jails for 22 or More Hours a Day, and Are Based on the Most Reliable Available Sources