Getting Out of Solitary

A new report highlights the progress made in a number of states to reduce the use of isolation in prisons–even as the nation continues to remain an international “outlier” in the practice.

archive archive

How Routine Traffic Stop Led To Six Months In Solitary Confinement

The use of solitary confinement has reached a watershed moment in the U.S., reports the Washington Post. Most experts agree that the hardships placed on thousands of isolated prisoners, some of whom are mentally ill, push them to a dangerous place. President Obama, citing the “devastating, lasting psychological consequences” solitary confinement can inflict, announced a ban last week on isolating juveniles in federal prisons and reduced the maximum number of days federal inmates can be isolated for a first offense […]


How Journalist Ridgeway Tells The Stories Of Solitary Confinement

There may be no reporter in the U.S. who has collected more stories of solitary-confinement prisoners than James Ridgeway. “I wanted to use the prisoners themselves as reporters,” he tells the New Yorker. “Of course, that's taboo in the mainstream press, since we all know they're liars and double dealers and escape artists … my position was all we want to do here is, we want to know what is going on inside.” Each week, Ridgeway gets fifty letters from […]


Indiana Becomes Latest State To Adopt Solitary Confinement Reforms

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 […]


Obama Stance Against Juvenile Solitary Could Prompt Action In States

A new ban on solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prison could bring momentum to reform efforts in states, says the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. President Obama announced the ban and other prison reforms Monday, saying he hoped the policies would be a model for state and local corrections systems. Jenny Lutz of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, which is helping to organize a national campaign against youth solitary, said Obama’s action may be “a springboard for people […]


Obama Limits Solitary In Federal Prisons, Bans Practice For Juveniles

President Obama announced a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in the federal prison system, saying the practice is overused and has the potential for devastating psychological consequences, the Washington Post reports. In an op-ed in today’s editions of the Post, the president outlines a series of executive actions that also prohibit federal corrections officials from punishing prisoners who commit “low-level infractions” with solitary confinement. The new rules also call for expanding treatment for mentally ill prisoners. While the […]


Amid State Reforms Of Solitary, National Group Changes Standards

As states rethink the use of solitary confinement to punish unruly inmates, a prisons oversight group is reshaping national accreditation standards to reduce such procedures, reports the Associated Press. Proposals range from mandatory health care visits and mental illness treatment for inmates in segregation to more time out of cells for recreation and education. “The punishment that we give to Americans is deprivation of their liberty, but it doesn’t mean that we try to punish them more while their liberty […]


Changing the Rules for Solitary

A “roadmap” for transforming the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons should begin with agreement that inmates should be confined for “the least amount of time necessary” and only when it is necessary to protect themselves or others, a colloquium of top corrections officials, academic experts and advocates has recommended. “The use of social isolation is greater than it has to be, in large measure because prisons have been called upon to do things they were never intended to […]


How Michigan Prison Led The Way In Reducing Solitary Confinement

Over 25 meetings, staff members of Michigan’s Alger prison devised a system of six “stages” that inmates could pass through on their way from solitary to a lower-security status, says The Marshall Project. On the way, there would be perks: At one stage, they would get recreation equipment, like a basketball, during their hour per day out of the cell. Later, they would be able to have a television in their cells. Most importantly, they would be able to call […]