States Should Follow New York’s Lead on Restricting Solitary Confinement

States Should Follow New York’s Lead on Restricting Solitary Confinement

The Point

Prisons and jails routinely use prolonged solitary confinement—holding someone in a cell for more than 22 hours a day with no meaningful human contact. New York just passed the HALT Act to limit this inhumane practice, and others states should do the same. 

States should restrict the use of solitary confinement in prisons and jails: 

  • States should ban prisons and jails from holding people in segregation (the more commonly used term for solitary confinement) for longer than 15 consecutive days. The United Nations has designated the use of solitary confinement for longer than 15 days as torture.
  • States should completely ban solitary confinement for individuals who are particularly vulnerable to the devastating effects of such confinement. For example, New York’s HALT Act bans any segregated confinement of pregnant or postpartum people, individuals with a disability, and those under 21 and over 55 years of age. 
  • States should ensure that limits apply to both disciplinary and administrative segregation. Disciplinary segregation is used to respond to rule violations while administrative segregation is used for purported safety or security reasons. Administrative segregation is often imposed indefinitely, and can last years or decades
  • States should significantly restrict the reasons why a person can be put in solitary confinement. Restrictive housing has become a “broad catch-all” used to respond to any rule infraction, no matter how minor, and to “manage” people with mental health disorders and safety needs, according to a report by the Vera Institute.

Solitary confinement is an inhumane practice that is recklessly wielded:

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