Indiana this week became the latest state to curb the use in prisons of solitary confinement, which a Washington Post editorial calls “an extreme, hellish and overused punishment.” The newspaper calls Indiana’s move “another sign of progress in ending a national scandal: the routine overuse of a practice that is akin to torture.” It took a class-action lawsuit to prompt the decision, and even then it promises insufficient change, says the Post. The case against Indiana's Department of Correction centered on three inmates with mental illnesses who were placed in solitary confinement, which the state calls “restricted status housing.” Now, mental-health experts will have much more leeway in determining the conditions in which their patients must live. The goal is to get them out of solitary and into an environment that might help their treatment. The settlement requires that mentally ill inmates receive at least 10 hours of therapeutic out-of-cell time per week, a dramatic shift in current practice, and frequent in-cell visits from clinicians.
These prisoners will also get more unstructured, recreational time outside their cells. The American Civil Liberties Union's Amy Fettig says that these changes, particularly the out-of-cell requirements, match what many other states have done, and are emerging as de facto national standards. The Post says that “declining to torture the mentally ill is a low bar.” Other states have done more. Colorado is significantly reducing the number of people the state isolates. The state's head of prisons reports that disorder has not resulted. I