The Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates killed a bill that would have required the state to study ways to limit the use of solitary confinement in state prisons, especially of those who are mentally ill, reports the Washington Post. Three Democrats proposed the bill after visiting state prisons last fall to examine how their most violent inmates are treated. The House killed the bill in its Rules Committee. A similar bill in the Senate has yet to be heard, but it's unlikely that the House would change its position.
Virginia, one of 44 states that use solitary confinement, has 1,800 people in isolation, a sizable share of the estimated 25,000 people in solitary in the nation's state and federal prisons. As more becomes known about the effects of isolation — on inmate health, public safety and prison budgets — some states have begun to reconsider the practice. Among them is Texas, which, like Virginia, is known as a law-and-order state. Lawyers and inmates say some of the state's 40,000 prisoners, including some with mental health issues, have been kept in isolation for years, in one case for 14 years. The Legal Aid Justice Center has requested an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, which recently launched a probe into a Pennsylvania prison where inmates complain of long periods of isolation and a lack of mental health treatment.