ABOUT US

Red Lock

WHO WE ARE

Unlock the Box is a national advocacy campaign aimed at ending solitary confinement in all U.S. prisons, jails, detention facilities, and juvenile facilities, and bringing the United States into full compliance with the UN’s Mandela Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners within 10 years.

We pursue this goal by working simultaneously on national, state, and local levels with solitary survivors, family members, advocates, community and faith groups, legislators, and others dedicated to ending state-sponsored torture. Unlock The Box and its partners are changing the national conversation, demanding that corrections leaders and policymakers address the human rights crisis in our prisons and adhere to the standards laid out by the United Nations.

STATE CAMPAIGN PARTNERS

MONUMENTAL MOVEMENTS

New York

Campaign efforts led by the New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) or #HALTsolitary Campaign resulted in the passage of the HALT Solitary Confinement Act in 2021. HALT limits solitary to no more than 15 days for all people, bans it for young people and other groups, and creates alternatives with at least 7 hours out of cell per day with rehabilitative and therapeutic programming.

MAKING HISTORY

New Jersey

Campaign efforts led by the NJ-Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) have focused on passage of the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act. In 2019, they successfully passed the bill .They have now moved into the implementation phase of their legislative campaign, which will involve several avenues of focus: influencing the development of regulations, continuing public engagement and education, and building the “scaffolding” of institutional oversight.

BOLD MOVES

VIRGINIA

 The bill prohibits solitary confinement, defined as confinement of a person in a cell, alone or with another person, for more than 20 hours a day, for all populations, with few narrow, time-limited exceptions for lockdowns, imminent security risks, and for the protection of an incarcerated person.

FIGHTING FOR CHANGE

NEBRASKA

Campaign efforts led by ACLU-NE ended the horrific overreliance on juvenile solitary confinement. The new law bans use of room confinement, except to eliminate substantial, immediate risk of harm and requires release from confinement as soon as the risk is resolved. The campaign is now focused on implementation of the law and expanding reform to the adult system.

DEMANDING TRANSPARENCY

ARKANSAS

Campaign efforts led by DecARcerate have played an active and central role in shared efforts to seek change. In 2021, they helped pass HB1470, which bans solitary confinement for pregnant juveniles and places restrictions on its use for pregnant adults. Arkansas has the third highest rate of solitary confinement in the country. The long-term goal is to eliminate solitary confinement and replace it with incentive-based, program-rich alternatives.

PROMOTING RESPONSIBILITY

CONNECTICUT

Campaign efforts led by the Stop Solitary Connecticut Coalition are focused on passing the PROTECT (Promoting Responsible Oversight & Treatment and Ensuring Correctional Transparency). The Act is comprehensive and aspirational, providing a legislative vehicle to: stop extreme isolation, end abusive restraints, protect social bonds, promote correctional officer wellness, shut down CT’s supermax, ensure correctional oversight and accountability.

SAFER SPACES

WASHINGTON D.C.

Campaign efforts led by DC Justice Lab will advance legislation that significantly reduces reliance on solitary confinement and use of Black Box restraints in the local detention facilities, and ensuring that policymakers, organizers, and the public understand that the use of solitary confinement does not make incarcerated people safer or healthier.

A SURVIVOR’S NETWORK

GEORGIA

The Out of Isolation, Into Action campaign, led by survivors of solitary confinement at the Southern Center for Human Rights and RestoreHER, is in its early stages. In 2021, efforts have focused on strengthening relationships with survivors & other advocacy organizations, building a robust coalition that can engage unlikely allies and constituencies to expose, challenge and eliminate solitary confinement in Georgia.

CHANGE FROM WITHIN

LOUISIANA

Campaign efforts led by the Louisiana Stop Solitary Coalition are focused on implementing  policies that reduce the use of solitary confinement for everyone. In 2020, they changed solitary confinement law in Louisiana for the first time in 150 years, banning its use for currently and recently pregnant people. In 2021, they achieved a phone call policy for people held in solitary  in DOC facilities. 



COMPELLING COMPLIANCE

MASSACHUSETTS

Campaign efforts lead by Massachusetts Against Solitary Confinement (MASC) work to end the use of solitary confinement in the Massachusetts Correctional System. Largely, driven by MASC’s advocacy, Massachusetts legislators passed the strongest criminal law reform bill in decades, which included significant changes to the states solitary confinement policies and practices, though the implementation has been stalled. New efforts will address this lack of compliance.

A FAMILY AFFAIR

MICHIGAN

The goal of the Open MI Door campaign is to end solitary confinement in all Michigan prisons, jails and juvenile detention facilities, bringing the state into full compliance with the UN’s Mandela Rules. Utilizing a survivor/family led coalition, we seek to implement safe alternatives to segregation.

PROTECTING THE VULNERABLE

NEW MEXICO

Campaign efforts led by ACLU-NM focus on the Restricted Housing Act legislation. In 2019, they were successful in passing the bill that prohibits the use of solitary confinement for those under 18, pregnant individuals, and people living with serious mental illness. It also requires jail and prison officials to collect data on who is housed in segregation and why. 

MAJOR IMPACT FOR MINORS

NEVADA

Campaign efforts led by the ACLU-NV Ending solitary confinement in Nevada have been successful in limiting the practice of solitary in juvenile facilities and within the Department of Corrections. The current focus is ensuring that Senate Bill 402 is properly implemented while we study and evaluate the use of solitary confinement in local adult facilities to evaluate whether legislative and/or regulatory changes are necessary.

SOLIDARITY NOT SOLITARY

PENNSYLVANIA

Campaign efforts led by the Pennsylvania Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) are focused on ending solitary confinement in Pennsylvania state prisons and jails, centering survivors of solitary confinement and their families in community-led campaigns. The campaign will continue to support and strengthen HB 1581, and to raise public awareness of the devastating harms of solitary confinement and these other forms of state violence.

CLOSING TIME

RHODE ISLAND

Campaign efforts led by the Close High Side Campaign are focused on shutting down Rhode Island’s most restrictive facility, the High Security Center, also known as High Side. Based on available data and interviews with incarcerated individuals, that approximately 120 prisoners, or five percent of RIDOC’s population, are in solitary—including disciplinary and administrative confinement—on any given day.

A VICTORY FOR YOUTH

WASHINGTON

Campaign efforts led by the ACLU-WA are focused on implementing the recent legislative victory—banning solitary of youth statewide, and beginning to tackle the adult solitary population through policy and legislative changes. They have recently led both litigation and policy work to address solitary confinement in adult and juvenile facilities across the state.

HARNESSING PUBLIC ENERGY

North Carolina

The Stop Torture in NC Prisons Campaign is aimed at ending the use of solitary confinement in NC prisons. Convened by Disability Rights North Carolina, the campaign will harness and target the growing public energy around criminal justice reform that will utilize existing partnerships and forge new collaborative relationships to place consistent pressure on the Governor and State lawmakers to adopt the Task Force recommendations, effectively ending long-term solitary confinement in North Carolina.

WHAT WE BELIEVE

Our prisons are a reflection of our values as a society and a nation, and should uphold human rights and respect the dignity and worth of all people.

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 it is on our side.

Red Lock

LEADERSHIP

Our steering committee members are established leaders in the movement to end solitary confinement, representing a range of key organizations and including people who have survived solitary confinement and had a family member in solitary. Together, they set the broad agenda and strategies for the campaign. Their expertise allows Unlock the Box to stay attuned to the unique challenges of each state and population, while also pursuing meaningful policy change at the national level.

CREATING A TIPPING POINT

A STRATEGY FOR CHANGE

51%. That’s the number that drives us. A central goal of our campaign is creating public and legislative “tipping points”: ensuring that 51% of the public agrees that solitary is torture, and that over half our states comprehensively address the practice.

CAMPAIGN TACTICS

Conversation

Facilitating and steering the national conversation surrounding solitary confinement and its alternatives is key to creating an informed public and a smaller carceral footprint.

POLICY

Passing legislation and advocating for policy changes that address the use of solitary confinement are at the forefront of our strategy.

Mobilization

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

 

CAMPAIGN milestones

youth

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

the vulnerable

Ensuring that solitary confinement is not used on our most vulnerable populations, such as people with mental illness, people living with physical disabilities, people with serious medical conditions, elders, LGBTQ+ persons, pregnant people, and new mothers, is an important step toward our goal.

national standards

The federal government must lay out national standards, based on the UN’s Nelson Mandela Rules and beyond, so that every state can legislate to end solitary confinement and move toward less punitive and more effective approaches to criminal justice.

the Mandela Rules

A BLUEPRINT FOR CHANGE

In 2011, a report by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez identified the use of solitary confinement as cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment often rising to the level of torture. Four years later, the UN included strict limits on the use of solitary in its revised Minimum Standards for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules. These rules demand that all nations restrict their use of solitary to no more than 15 days, and ban it altogether for children, pregnant people and new mothers, individuals with mental illness and physical disabilities, and other vulnerable populations. Although the rules are meant to set absolute minimums for upholding the human rights and dignities of incarcerated people, the United States remains nowhere near compliant.

Since their adoption in 2015, the Nelson Mandela Rules have offered an internationally recognized blueprint for ending most uses of solitary confinement, and a unifying goal for the Unlock the Box campaign and its partners.

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JOIN THE FIGHT

Protestor holding "End Torture" sign

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