President Obama Urges Review of Solitary Confinement Policies


Time: 9:36 p.m. CEST

President Barack Obama published an op-ed column in the Washington Post on Tuesday on his new executive actions to check the overuse of solitary confinement, as part of the pre-announced criminal-justice reforms, centerpiece of Obama’s domestic agenda for the last year of its presidency.

“Reforming solitary confinement is just one part of a broader bipartisan push for criminal justice reform. Every year, we spend $80 billion to keep 2.2 million people incarcerated, “ Obama explains.

Obama starts its opinion, shared across different social media platforms the White House is using to deliver its message, with a story dated in 2010. And, it says.

“In 2010, a 16-year-old named Kalief Browder from the Bronx was accused of stealing a backpack. He was sent to Rikers Island to await trial, where he reportedly endured unspeakable violence at the hands of inmates and guards — and spent nearly two years in solitary confinement.” Kalief was released, continues Obama, in 2013, “Having never stood trial.”

He completed a successful semester at Bronx Community College. But life was a constant struggle to recover from the trauma of being locked up alone for 23 hours a day. One Saturday, he committed suicide at home. He was just 22 years old, end Obama the said story of a teenager caught in the labyrinths of the justice system.

The solitary confinement dates from the early 1800s, and over the time it was increasingly overused on people, sometimes with tragic effects, as in the case of young Kalief.

The President directed Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and the Justice Department to review the overuse of the solitary confinement across U.S. prisons. “They have identified common-sense principles that should guide the use of solitary confinement in our criminal justice system,” Obama says,

Obama adopted the recommendations of the Justice Department, which includes banning of solitary confinement for juveniles and as a response to low-level infractions, expanding treatment for the mentally ill and increasing the amount of time inmates in solitary can spend outside of their cells.

These steps, as Obama writes, will affect some “10,000 federal prisoners held in solitary confinement — and hopefully serve as a model for state and local corrections systems. And I will direct all relevant federal agencies to check these principles and report back to me with a plan to discuss their use of solitary confinement.”

Several states adopted already some of the measures. For example, Colorado “cut the number of people in solitary confinement, and assaults against staff are the lowest they’ve been since 2006. New Mexico implemented reforms and has seen a drop in solitary confinement, with more prisoners engaging in promising rehabilitation programs. And since 2012, federal prisons have cut the use of solitary confinement by 25 percent and much reduced assaults on staff.”

 

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