NBC News: Bill to Ban Solitary Confinement in Federal Prisons Introduced by House Lawmakers
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-12) joined Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01), Congressman Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (NY-16), Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Congresswoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA-37), and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) in introducing the End Solitary Confinement Act, historic legislation which would end solitary confinement in federal prison and detention facilities, establish minimum standards for incarceration and due process protections, and incentivize states and localities to end solitary in state and local facilities.
“Solitary confinement is torture and torture should have no place in our society,” said Congresswoman Tlaib. “It takes a devastating toll on mental health, heightens the risk of self-harm and suicide, increases recidivism, and can lead to severe psychological trauma. We need to lead with restorative justice and recognize the human dignity of incarcerated people by abolishing this dehumanizing practice once and for all.”
“Solitary confinement is a moral catastrophe. UN experts have condemned solitary as psychological torture—and that’s exactly what it is. This practice is traumatic for people subjected to it, harmful to communities, and isolating for loved ones. Moreover, it is disproportionately inflicted on Black and brown folks, young people, LGBTQ+ people, and other marginalized communities,” said Congresswoman Bush. “I’m proud to lead my colleagues, advocates, and survivors of solitary confinement in introducing this groundbreaking legislation. Together we will save lives by ending this heinous and immoral practice once and for all.”
“Solitary confinement is torture, and it has no place in America,” said Congressman Bowman. “Merciless practices like solitary confinement directly target marginalized groups–including people of color, young people, LGBTQ+ individuals, and Disabled individuals who are already disproportionately impacted by our prison industrial system–and cause lifelong trauma. We must end this form of cruel and traumatic punishment for everyone. I’m proud to join Representatives Bush, Espaillat, Kamlager-Dove, Tlaib, and Watson Coleman in bringing forth this lifesaving legislation to preserve the humanity and dignity of incarcerated individuals. I look forward to working with my colleagues on creating a safer justice system that prioritizes care and restoration over punishment and incarceration.”
“We know the clear, irreversible harm that solitary confinement causes to individuals, yet we continue to use this form of torture across the American criminal justice system,” said Congressman Espaillat. “These harms are well documented and lead to increased mental health risks and heightened rates of suicide. Solitary confinement is inhumane, and this form of torture should never be used, period. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing the End Solitary Confinement Act to ban this practice across our justice system in its entirety.”
“Current practices around solitary confinement would be categorized as human rights violations in any other context in any other country,” said Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove. “If we want incarcerated individuals to leave the system rehabilitated and truly decrease recidivism, we must treat the incarcerated like people first. I am glad to support Congresswoman Bush’s legislation, and I will continue to stand with my colleagues and work to reform our outdated criminal justice system.”
“Most Americans agree that the extensive use of solitary confinement is morally indefensible,” said Congresswoman Watson Coleman. “The use of solitary confinement has been shown to significantly harm to the incarcerated individual’s mental health leading to self-mutilation, anxiety, depression, psychosis, mental deterioration, and suicide. The United States is currently going through a significant mental health crisis to which the Federal government should not be contributing through its extensive use of solitary confinement. Congresswoman Bush’s bill to end the extended use of solitary confinement is a step in the right direction towards our goal of rehabilitation and mental health.”
A copy of this legislation can be found HERE. A copy of the summary materials can be found HERE.
Specifically, this legislation would:
- End solitary confinement in federal prisons, jails and other detention settings with limited exceptions, including a 4-hour maximum for emergency de-escalation;
- Protect vulnerable populations from being placed in solitary confinement;
- Allow for longer-term separation from the general facility population while ensuring all people incarcerated in federal facilities have meaningful access to out-of-cell time, group programming, and basic needs and services;
- Impose strict due process protections, including access to representation and neutral decision-makers;
- Create oversight and enforcement mechanisms, including mandatory reporting, a private cause of action, oversight by a community monitoring body, and enhanced media access; and
- Incentivize states and municipalities to adopt similar bans on solitary confinement.
Additional co-sponsors of this legislation include Representatives Nanette Díaz Barragán (CA-44), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Summer Lee (PA-12), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Ayanna Pressley (MA-01), Delia Ramirez (IL-03), and Nydia Velázquez (NY-07).
The End Solitary Confinement Act is endorsed by the Federal Anti-Solitary Taskforce (including member organizations American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Constitutional Rights, #HALTsolitary Campaign, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Unlock the Box Campaign, and Zealous),and nearly 150 other organizations. For a current list of supporting organizations and statements of support, see HERE.
Johnny Perez, Director, U.S. Prisons Program, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, said: “As someone who has personally endured the torment of solitary confinement, I can attest to the devastating toll it takes on one’s mental and emotional well-being. The End Solitary Confinement Act is a beacon of hope for those incarcerated in federal facilities nationwide, offering a chance for reform and redemption within our criminal justice system. I implore Congress to swiftly pass this critical legislation, for it is not only a matter of justice, but a matter of preserving human dignity and restoring hope for those who have been silenced and isolated for far too long across the United States.”
Jerome Wright, Co-Director of the #HALTsolitary Campaign, said: “Solitary confinement is one of human beings’ greatest inhumanity to other human beings. It is torture. Solitary causes devastating harm and death, while worsening safety for everyone. It should have no place in our society. The End Solitary Confinement Act would be an urgent and critical step in the struggle for human rights and racial justice. Congress must waste no time to pass this Act, and the President must sign it into law.”
Tammie Gregg, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Stop Solitary Campaign, said: “Solitary confinement is a torturous practice that causes immense suffering and severe damage, while also making everyone less safe. It is wrong, and it must end now. The End Solitary Confinement Act provides an historic opportunity for Congress and the President to end solitary confinement in a real and meaningful way while fostering engagement- and program-based interventions proven to be much more effective at improving safety.”
Jessica Sandoval, Director, Unlock the Box Campaign, said: “The End Solitary Confinement Act is urgently needed legislation to stop the torture of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, jails, and detention centers. In order to stop torture, reduce suffering, save lives, and make everyone safer, Congresswoman Bush’s bill will end solitary confinement for all people and utilize proven alternative interventions involving full days of out-of-cell group programming and engagement. Over 120,000 people in local, state, and federal custody, including over 11,000 people in federal prisons alone, are being tortured right now — disproportionately Black, Latina/o/x, and indigenous people and other people of color and many for months and years at a time. With widespread bipartisan public support across the country for ending solitary confinement and with a growing number of jurisdictions introducing and enacting legislation to end or limit the practice, now is the moment for federal policymakers to lead. Congress must act quickly to pass the End Solitary Confinement Act and President Biden must sign it into law to fulfill his pledge to end solitary once and for all.”
CJ Sandley, Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights, said: “The Center for Constitutional Rights has a long history of challenging the use of isolation in U.S. prisons and immigration detention centers. In particular, many of our clients have been placed in solitary confinement in retaliation for their efforts to speak up about the fact and conditions of their confinement. The Center for Constitutional Rights firmly believes solitary confinement is torture. The End Solitary Confinement Act is a monumental step toward eliminating this abhorrent practice in federal carceral systems, and we are proud to support it.”