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Justice Department reviews standards for solitary confinement

The Justice Department undertook a review of solitary confinement (or "restrictive housing") policies. The purpose of the report was to analyze the effect on inmates, find out how many people are kept in restrictive housing, the nature of the confinement and if there was any room to reduce those rates. The report released 50 "Guiding Principles" on how to improve restrictive housing for inmates and officers. This article will discuss some of the highlights of this report.

  • All correctional systems should seek ways to make restrictive housing more open access. Inmates should, whenever safely possible, get more recreation time, be provided with more opportunities to learn skills, seek treatment, education and for social interactions.
  • All facilities should have a standing committee to evaluate inmates held in solitary confinement to ensure that continued restrictions are necessary.
  • There should be a plan to eventually re-integrate inmates.
  • Once integration is appropriate, inmates should be eased back into the general population. Rapid reintegration is overwhelming for most people accustomed to solitary confinement.
  • Inmates should only be placed in solitary confinement to serve a specific purpose, never as a general punishment. Additionally, corrections officials should be able to articulate the specific justification for every inmate held in solitary confinement.

The report offers several recommendations to the DOJ, specifically, that juveniles should not be held in solitary confinement. It further recommends that inmates held in solitary confinement who suffer from mental health problems should be afforded the care necessary for treatment.

Don't think that big talk, swagger or past experience being inside can prepare you for solitary confinement. The deprivation depends upon the facility in which you are housed. Regardless, it is serious isolation from outside stimuli and social interactions. It is hard on everyone and does often result in mental problems.

If you are facing a serious charge that could land you in restrictive housing then you may want to consult with a criminal defense attorney. Solitary is just one of the many punishments that await serious offenders. Don't take this threat lightly, sometimes even books are not allowed to restricted inmates.

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