04/03/17

Pushing for Solitary Confinement Reform in 2017

A replica solitary confinement cell sits in the Connecticut state capitol building

The ACLU-CT brought a replica solitary confinement cell to the Connecticut capitol.

Solitary confinement costs too much, does nothing to rehabilitate prisoners, and can exacerbate or even cause mental illness. In 2017, the ACLU of Connecticut is fighting for legislation that would cap the duration of solitary confinement and prohibit it altogether for vulnerable people, such as youth and people with mental illness.

In March, solitary confinement survivors and family members, mental health advocates, religious leaders, and more testified at a public hearing to support H.B. 7302, a bill that would permanently fix solitary confinement in Connecticut prisons. David McGuire, the ACLU of Connecticut’s executive director, testified in support of the legislation and shared his experience working to protect vulnerable prisoners.

“During my time with the ACLU of Connecticut, I have counseled clients who experienced solitary confinement, also known as ‘administrative segregation,’ in Connecticut prisons,” McGuire told the judiciary committee.

solitary confinement cell reflection

One visitor’s reflection from the replica solitary confinement cell exhibit at the Connecticut capitol.

“I have sat with their family members, met with prisoners themselves, and listened as both described cruel and unusual conditions. At one point, Northern Correctional Institution’s solitary confinement unit, like many throughout the country, was treated not as a last resort for prisoners who were dangerous to others, but as a dumping ground for people whom our prison system had failed: people with mental illness, or who had accumulated minor nuisance infractions but never harmed or threatened someone else.”  Read the ACLU of Connecticut’s testimony supporting the bill.

The hearing followed an effort by lawmakers and the ACLU of Connecticut to bring the issue of solitary confinement straight to legislators’ doors by placing a replica solitary confinement cell at the state capitol. ACLU-CT supporters emailed and called their legislators to ask them to step inside the box, and their calls worked–legislators from throughout the political spectrum visited the cell to better understand why Connecticut needs legislation to stop solitary confinement of vulnerable people. Read about the “Inside the Box” campaign at the state capitol.

Earlier in the year, the ACLU of Connecticut partnered with the Yale Undergraduate Prison Project, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and more to bring the same replica solitary confinement cell to New Haven. Learn more about the New Haven “Inside the Box” campaign.

*Update* Read more about the solitary confinement reform bill that ultimately passed out of the legislature.