President Obama has announced a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in the federal prison system, saying the punishment can cause damaging psychological problems.
via Washington Post:
In an op-ed that appears in Tuesday editions of The Washington 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.
The president’s reforms are expected to affect about 10,000 inmates.
The reforms come six months after Obama, as part of a broader criminal-justice reform push, ordered the Justice Department to study how solitary confinement was being used by the federal Bureau of Prisons.
The move is another example of the extent to which the nation’s first African American president now seems willing to tackle delicate questions of race and criminal justice as he closes out his presidency. Obama has also been focused on trying to put in place programs to help ex-offenders reintegrate into society once they have left prison.
“How can we subject prisoners to unnecessary solitary confinement, knowing its effects, and then expect them to return to our communities as whole people?” the president wrote in his op-ed. “It doesn’t make us safer. It’s an affront to our common humanity.”
He said he hoped his reforms at the federal level will serve as a model for states to rethink their rules on the issue.
At least a dozen states have taken steps in the past two years to curtail the use of solitary confinement, either in response to lawsuits or through legislative and administrative changes. An increasing number of studies show a connection between isolating prisoners and higher rates of recidivism.
Sidebar: Did you know President Obama is the first sitting president to visit a federal prison?