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  • What’s wrong with solitary confinement

    WGBH - 10/14/2015

    The Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary is holding a hearing about an omnibus criminal justice bill that, among other things, would vastly restrict the ability of corrections officials to put prisoners in solitary confinement or its functional equivalent.

    Scholars have studied the lingering reliance on solitary confinement in our nation’s prisons, despite the fact that (1) data collection is occasionally difficult and (2) corrections officials tend to use euphemisms (restricted housing, protective custody, administrative segregation and so on) that obscure the grim reality that inmates in our country are all too often placed in isolation for upwards of 23 hours a day.  Estimates about the number of prisoners who are confined in this fashion range from about 25,000 to 80,000.  In 2014, ten states either announced or implemented reforms to reduce the use of solitary confinement and the proposed legislation would allow Massachusetts to join this noble trend in recognizing the harmful consequences of prolonged isolation.

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