A new U.S. Justice Department report says Pennsylvania’s prison system has used solitary confinement too often for inmates who exhibit mental illness or have intellectual disabilities, saysthe Associated Press. The report said the state corrections department has made some improvement but much more needs to be done. “Now is the time to put a stop to these harmful solitary confinement practices and to meaningfully improve the mental health services,” the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said.
The Justice Department found that over a recent year, more than 1,000 prisoners with mental health problems had been in solitary confinement for at least three months, and nearly 250 for a year or more. Pennsylvania prisons house just over 50,000 inmates. The federal study found that the state’s use of solitary causes or exacerbates mental illness, noting that more than 70 percent of its suicide attempts occur in solitary confinement units. Prisoners with severe mental illness were more than twice as likely as others to end up in solitary.