[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official profile] on Monday announced a ban on the federal prison system's use of solitary confinement for juveniles. Obama stated in an op-ed [WP op-ed] Monday evening that after a review of US prisons by the Department of Justice [official website], he is adopting new rules based on their recommendations:
These include banning 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 will affect some 10,000 federal prisoners held in solitary confinement — and hopefully serve as a model for state and local corrections systems.Some states have already begun limiting solitary confinement, and JURIST Guest Columnist Steven Zeidman [official profile] suggested that New York's decision to ban solitary confinement [JURIST report] in February 2014 would lead to a larger discussion on the topic [JURIST op-ed]. The president's ban could contribute to more reform on the state level as well.
The legality of solitary confinement has been an ongoing debate in the US, with many calling for comprehensive prison reform [JURIST podcast]. In September the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) [official website], in partnership with the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program at Yale Law School [website] released a report [text, PDF] estimating that between 80,000 to 100,000 prisoners were in what correctional officials call "restrictive housing" in 2014. Also in September California agreed [JURIST report] to restrict use of solitary confinement based on a class action lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights [advocacy website]. In March the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] that Virginia could continue to automatically house death row inmates in solitary confinement. In June 2014 Colorado enacted a law [JURIST report] changing its traditional methods of solitary confinement by mandating psychiatric evaluations and therapy for inmates diagnosed with mental illness and qualifying for disciplinary intervention.