Reform or Abolish Solitary Confinement

Reform or Abolish Solitary Confinement

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Camden Harris started this petition to Department of Justice and

Solitary Confinement is a cruel punishment enforced on inmates for at times minor infractions. Solitary confinement treats inmates as sub-human and is a form of torture that we need to fix or abolish.

Physical and mental health issues linked to solitary confinement

  • Inmates in solitary develop countless mental and physical issues while trapped in solitary confinement. Mental health issues include depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and actions, panic attacks, hallucinations, and so much more.  People who are suicidal and cut themselves or attempt suicide are punished with more solitary confinement, creating an endless cycle of pain and suffering.  Physical health issues include sleeping problems, heart issues such as heart palpitations, hypersensitivity to light and sound, and much more.  Solitary confinement is a cruel punishment that shortens life expectancies and causes lifelong issues for those who have experienced it.

Solitary confinement is used as a biased weapon

  • People of color are 30% more likely to be given disciplinary tickets or infractions for often minor offenses and are 60% more likely to receive solitary confinement from these infractions.  LGBTQ+ inmates are also punished at unproportionate rates as 85% of LGBTQ+ inmates have been punished with solitary confinement at some point and 55% of those inmates had spent more than 2 years trapped in solitary.  LGBTQ+ inmates are also 65% more likely to be given solitary confinement than heterosexual inmates.

Children are subjected to the horrors of solitary confinement

  • Solitary confinement is oftentimes used as a way to "protect" children from abuse in prison, especially when they are placed in adult prisons, but solitary is one of the worst ways to help children.  Children as young as 13 are placed in solitary confinement for at times years, locking them away from human interaction during their developmental years.  35% of children were placed in solitary confinement at some point during their imprisonment, and 50% of those children were in solitary for over 24 hours.  Children are much more likely to develop mental health issues that can lead to death.  50% of children who died while imprisoned were due to suicide while in solitary confinement

Luckily, solitary confinement can be fixed, ranging from tier 1 reforms which are quality of life changes to improve the wellbeing of prisoners, and tier 2 reforms that uproot the entirety of what we know solitary confinement to be. 

Tier 1 Reforms:

  • Allowing prisoners more time outside (currently, most solitary prisoners only get 45 minutes of exercise in a cage the size of their cell.)

  • Reducing the number of inmates condemned to solitary confinement.

  • Reducing the time spent in solitary to a maximum of 30 days or less.

  • Providing games and activities for inmates so that they can have some interaction with other inmates and staff

  • Constructing "de-escalation rooms" for inmates so that they can step away temporarily and reevaluate their mindset.

    • One prison that this was implemented in saw a 40-90% decrease in assaults.

  • Providing mental health treatment for depressed or suicidal prisoners.
  • Requiring more than one officer to review solitary punishments to prevent bias.

These reforms are a great place to start but if we truly want to fix solitary confinement, we need to abolish the solitary cells so that solitary confinement can be a place where rehabilitation takes place.  Tier 2 reforms involve abolishing "the block"/solitary cells and replacing it with a better system

Tier 2 Reforms:

  • Replacing "the block"/solitary cells with extra one-on-one therapy and group therapy
    • This strategy was first tested in an alternative prison in the UK known a Grendon, a prison built to test a humane way of treating prisoners.
    • Violence is prohibited but prisoners aren't punished like in a regular prison but instead are given extra therapy to help fix their issues.
    • Prisoners are treated more equally and refer to guards and inmates as friends as opposed to strangers.
    • Inmates are more independent and aren't forced to be stuck in isolation and treated as a number, but a person.
  • Providing inmates with education and jobs
    • This strategy has been used all over the world and even in the US such as in Minnesota.
    • Education and job experience allow inmates to have a smoother transition to regular life after being released from prison.
    • Education and jobs in prison have been proven to reduce reoffending rates and improve mental health.
    • Education could include GED's (if the inmate didn't get the chance to graduate high school) and even college degrees (similar to getting a degree from a community college).
    • Jobs would be jobs that could translate outside of prison such as helping/cooking in the kitchen, doing maintenance work such as plumbing.
      • These jobs wouldn't go unpaid, the prisoners would be paid for their efforts

I hope that you consider signing this petition so that we can reform solitary confinement and not only improve the justice system, but society as a whole.

For more information, click here.

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