The fervor behind the issue of mass incarceration has slowed down a bit, but a recent announcement by President Barack Obama should surely get the ball rolling again. On Monday, the POTUS announced a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile inmates serving time in the federal prison system. This will be part of a series of executive actions, which will additionally prohibit officials at the federal level to impose solitary confinement on inmates who commit “low-level infractions.”
“How can we subject prisoners to unnecessary solitary confinement, knowing its effects, and then expect them to return to our communities as whole people?” the president wrote in an op-ed published in The Washington Post. “It doesn’t make us safer. It’s an affront to our common humanity.”
The new rules also dictate that the longest a prisoner can be punished with solitary confinement for a first offense is 60 days, rather than the current maximum of 365 days.
The president’s reforms apply broadly to the roughly 10,000 federal inmates serving time in solitary confinement, though there are only a handful of juvenile offenders placed in restrictive housing each year. Between September 2014 and September 2015, federal authorities were notified of just 13 juveniles who were put in solitary in its prisons, officials said. However, federal officials sent adults inmates to solitary for nonviolent offenses 3,800 times in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2014, suggesting that policy change will have more sweeping ramifications.
It is hoped that Pres. Obama’s action will be replicated on the state level. Due to lawsuits or changes in administrative or legislative policies, several states–including Illinois, Oregon, New York and California–have made moves to cut down on the number of inmates subjected to solitary confinement.