02/21/17

Lawmakers, ACLU-CT Call for Solitary Confinement Reform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 21, 2017

CONTACT:
Meghan Smith, ACLU of Connecticut, 860-992-7645, msmith@acluct.org
Omena McCoy, Office of Senator Gary Winfield, 860-240-0393

HARTFORD — Lawmakers and advocates called on legislators to support solitary confinement reform during a press conference at the Connecticut State Capitol today. Senator Gary Winfield, members of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, the Connecticut Commission on Equity and Opportunity, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU-CT) urged lawmakers to reform the use of solitary confinement in Connecticut prisons and to place themselves in the shoes of solitary confinement prisoners by visiting a replica solitary confinement cell while it is on display in the capitol building.

While Connecticut prisons have decreased their use of solitary confinement in the past decade, more than 300 people were held in long-term isolation in Connecticut prisons last year, and a recent national report showed that Connecticut was second worst in the country when it came to disproportionately placing Black men in solitary. During today’s event, lawmakers and advocates discussed the economic, health, and civil rights problems with solitary confinement and the need for permanent changes to long-term isolation in Connecticut’s prisons.

“Solitary confinement costs too much, does nothing to improve public safety, and can exacerbate or even cause mental illness. If Connecticut is truly committed to creating rehabilitative prisons, solitary confinement simply does not belong. It is time for our state to protect vulnerable prisoners, stand up for justice, and promote public safety by permanently reforming long-term isolation,” said David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU-CT.

Legislators and advocates also called upon lawmakers to inform their public policy decisions surrounding solitary confinement by visiting the replica solitary confinement cell on display at the capitol. In a joint letter, legislators, the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, and the ACLU-CT urged lawmakers to visit the replica cell.

“Solitary confinement is cruel and unjust. It breaks people. It robs them of their health, hope, and ability to return to Connecticut families and communities as rehabilitated members of society. It is time for my colleagues in the General Assembly to reform solitary confinement in our state. Every member of the General Assembly needs to visit this replica cell to understand just what we are forcing people to experience,” said Senator Gary Winfield (New Haven, Tenth Senate District). Immediately following the press conference, Senator Winfield entered the replica solitary confinement cell and remained there for an extended period of time.

Representative Robyn Porter (New Haven, Hamden, 94th Assembly), in a previous statement, said: “After having the opportunity to sit in the replica cell at New Haven’s Main Library last month, I must say it was a very sobering and heart wrenching experience. In part due to my son’s experience, but also because the added acoustics surprisingly took me to a space in time that restricted me mentally and spiritually. I immediately began to feel broken and disconnected. It brought me to tears. It was haunting and taunting in that it snatched me from my range of human experience. Upon my exit, reconfirmation instantly set in that this kind of treatment is inhumane and torturous. This is why I suggested the replica cell be brought to the Capitol, so that other legislators could gain a perspective of what it is like, on a very superficial level, to be confined in such a dehumanizing way. It is my fervent hope that many will take the opportunity, if only for a few minutes, and that their experience will move them to join us in our efforts to bringing some civility to this cruel and heartless way of punishing the inmates in our state.”

The replica cell, which was previously on display in New Haven, provides visitors with a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the experience of solitary confinement. The exhibit will be open to legislators, their staff, and members of the public in the South Lobby of the Connecticut State Capitol from February 21 through March 2.