Obama puts restrictions on solitary confinement

8:55 AM College Lawyer Blog 0 Comments

Tuesday, 1/26/16


On Monday, January 25th, 2016, President Obama issued new guidelines for solitary confinement in federal prisons after ordering the Justice Department to investigate the use of solitary confinement six months prior.

Solitary confinement is a practice in which an inmate is isolated from most, if not all, human contact. The punishment is issued for a variety or reasons, whether it be for security purposes, treatment, or a response to an inmate's misbehavior.

Although this punishment is meant to keep prisons safe, the horrors surrounding solitary confinement are well known.  Keeping an inmate, especially juvenile inmates, away from human contact can lead to serious mental health issues.  Social isolation is traumatic and there are very few ways to stimulate the mind in confinement.  With that being said, the effects of social isolation on a developing mind are devastating.  The Human Rights Watch reports that many juveniles in isolation reported self harm, hallucinations, losing touch with reality, having thoughts of suicide and then being denied access to medical assistance.  Additionally, the Center for Naval Analyses approximated that as much as sixty percent of inmates that had been confined were under diagnosed or suffered untreated mental illnesses. Upon release, they are fearsome, unsociable, and struggle to reintegrate with prison life.

As a result, Obama has banned juveniles from being placed in solitary confinement.  This is just one of the fifty mandates being enacted.  Others include limitations on the amount a time a prisoner can be held in solitary confinement. The Washington Post reports that there are roughly 10,000 prisoners currently serving time in solitary confinement.  The maximum holding time for a first offense is now sixty days as opposed to the previous three hundred and sixty five limit.  Inmates in confinement will be allowed more time out of their cells in order to remain stimulated.  Furthermore, the government is asking for federal prisoners to be placed in the least restrictive environment possible but, at the same time, not to compromise the safety of prison staff and other inmates.

This is a key step in prison reform.  Obama enacted these rules in a campaign to bring about reform in the criminal justice system.  He recognizes that all Americans are worthy of a second chance and that a call for fair and just punishment must be answered.

Seth Canner
Assistant Editor-In-Chief
Levitt Law Firm, Law Clerk 


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