Speaking at what was described as the first congressional hearing about solitary confinement, ex-convict Anthony Graves told a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee that the practice was “inhumane and by its design is driving men insane,” reports the Los Angeles Times. For most of his 12 years on death row, Graves lived in what he called an 8-by-12 “cage.” He served 18 years in a Texas prison before being exonerated in 2010.
This month, the Center for Constitutional Rights sued the state of California for its practice of isolating prison inmates suspected of having gang affiliations. The lawsuit focuses on 300 inmates who have been held at Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit for more than a decade. Charles Samuels, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, told the committee that inmates were only placed in solitary confinement to protect the safety of the prison population. The bureau attempts to limit time spent in solitary confinement, which is not supposed to be used for seriously mentally ill inmates, he said. Senate Assistant Majority Leader Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the committee chairman, said he planned to introduce legislation that would reform solitary confinement in federal institutions.