Solitary confinement is overused and under-regulated. In fact, solitary confinement -- spending nearly every hour of every day locked in a small cell with limited contact and mind-numbing idleness -- amounts to a kind of torture, with prisoners subjected to the treatment often exhibiting precisely those symptoms of those who've been tortured. It's hard to see where solitary confinement leaves off and cruel and unusual punishment begins. In fact, several federal cases have suggested that isolating the mentally ill in confinement produces such "extreme suffering" that doing so violates the Eighth Amendment.
Currently, lawmakers in Maine are considering a law to regulate solitary confinement conditions in the state prison system. If the law passes, it'd be a giant step forward -- one that could pave the way for other states to follow suit. Urge Maine legislators to pass the law now to protect the state's citizens against cruel and unusual punishment. Take action by signing the petition below.
UPDATE: As of 4/6/10 LD1611 is no longer the bill it once was. Maine legislators have passed a watered down version of the bill despite staunch opposition from activists like you. As passed, LD1611 will simply gather more information on the effects of solitary confinement and the due process procedures in place for those people in segregation units.
The use of solitary confinement is widely and perhaps over-used in prisons across the United States. Too often it is seen as a way to get troublesome inmates out of the way, rather than as a last resort. By passing this legislation you could show that while Maine supports safety in prisons, it understands that basic human rights make tight standards and procedures a necessity. Because the use of solitary confinement involves such extreme isolation, I believe this type of regulation is necessary.
Prisoners housed in Maine's special management units should have access to regular mental health evaluations and a hearing if their confinement is expected to last more than 45 days. Those inmates deemed to be suffering from a serious mental illness should not be housed in such extreme segregation at all as several experts and federal judges have equated this with cruel and unusual punishment. These procedural standards outlined in LD 1611 are basic fundamental protections for people incarcerated within the prison walls and also serve to give prison personnel more clear cut regulations to adhere to.
I encourage you to promote humane and fair treatment within Maine's special management units by helping to pass LD 1611. The procedural safeguards outlined in An Act to Ensure Humane Treatment for Special Management Prisoners are common sense and long overdue.