Should federal prisons restrict the use of solitary confinement?

Awaiting Vote
Bill Summary

This bill would amend title 18 of the US Code to restrict the use of solitary confinement for incarcerated individuals unless there is reasonable cause to believe that substantial and immediate serious harm to another exists. Every correctional facility must establish standards compliant with this law. Solitary confinement would only be used for disciplinary reasons. An individual placed in solitary confinement would have mental/medical examinations before, right to a hearing within 72 hours of placement with counsel, and daily evaluations by a clinician. Those with medical conditions would be placed in a medical facility instead of solitary confinement. Individuals are not allowed to be in solitary confinement for longer than 15 consecutive days or more than 20 days during a 60 day period. This bill would require administrators to review placement every 15 days and require access to basic necessities such as food and water. Sponsor: Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (Democrat, New Jersey, District 12)
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Opponents say

• "We need the flexibility to respond to exigent circumstances. We have to manage [inmates] in very close quarters. And our fundamental obligation, not only to the people of Rhode Island, but to the inmates and their families, is to keep everybody safe." Source: Former Director of Corrections A.T. Wall (Rhode Island)

Proponents say

• "Solitary confinement has devastating effects on those subjected to it including deep psychological harm. Ending long term use of solitary confinement is an important step in prison reform." Source: Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (Democrat, New Jersey, District 12)
• "Prolonged solitary confinement is one of the true horrors of the modern day penal system. Studies have shown that prolonged solitary confinement can result in paranoia, hallucinations, suicidal ideation, feelings of impending doom, decline in mental functioning, insomnia, nightmares, and many other symptoms related to severe depression and anxiety. Prolonged solitary confinement is nothing short of torture in most cases..." Source: Judge Rosemary S. Pooler (Second Circuit Court of Appeals)
• "Our criminal justice system should be about justice and rehabilitation, not just punishment. Solitary confinement should be a tool of last resort, yet the use of solitary confinement by the federal prison system has increased in recent months, even when evidence clearly demonstrates that this practice frequently fails to achieve its intended goal of improving prison safety or stopping criminal behavior. In fact, widespread overuse of solitary confinement is causing lasting, irreparable harm to many inmates subjected to it." Source: Senator Chris Coons (Democrat, Delaware)