Reform Solitary Confinement in New Hampshire
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We are calling for immediate reform with regard to the use of solitary confinement in the state of New Hampshire.
Solitary confinement is a practice that forces inmates to live in an 8’x10’ cell for twenty-three hours out of twenty-four hours a day, every day, for years on end––Often for the entirety of their sentence.
The decision to send inmates to solitary is made by individual prison officials, not by a judge, a jury, or anyone otherwise involved in the judiciary.
Many inmates, particularly those who are mentally ill or members of the LGBT community, often resort to solitary for the sake of their own safety. When an individual inmate feels endangered by the greater prison population, he often turns to solitary confinement because there is no better alternative.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, at least 30% of inmates currently held in solitary confinement are mentally ill. Research shows that long term isolation serves only to exacerbate pre-existing mental illness, and also produces psychological problems in inmates who would otherwise be symptom-free. The prevalence of mental illnesses, when combined with a lack of resources to aid in the transition from solitary to society, can actually increase the likelihood that a felon will reoffend upon release.
In 2016, the New Hampshire House of Representatives shot down a bill that would have reduced the use of solitary confinement on inmates suffering from severe psychological disorders. Another New Hampshire bill, which proposed a cap of six weeks on solitary confinement and limited its use to violent behavior, was also shot down around the same time. We would like to see these bills revived and expanded to include better access to healthcare for inmates living in isolation, as well as a decrease in the use of solitary confinement overall.
We, a group of four high school students, have dedicated extensive time to researching the psychological, ethical, and political consequences of solitary confinement in America. We have conducted interviews with experts in many fields–– professors, lawyers, and journalists alike, the vast majority of whom contend that solitary confinement constitutes torture.
We have also talked with and listened to the stories of inmates who spent long term time in solitary confinement themselves.
Knowing what we know now, we cannot ignore this issue.
We have attached a short video of our own creation to give you a sense of what solitary might entail for an inmate. We have also produced a longer podcast, which provides context for the history and legality of solitary confinement, also attached here. We are also making the full interview with Joe Giarratano available. He spent 8 year on death row in isolation. Please give this issue the attention it deserves. Thank you.
Joe Giarratano Interview
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