|Posted:||April 26, 2019 02:30 PM|
|From:||Senator Lawrence M. Farnese, Jr.|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||Solitary Confinement Reform|
“Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, Supermax, the hole, Secure Housing Unit… whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by States as a punishment or extortion technique,” UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez to the United Nations in 2011.
Stuart Grassian, a board-certified psychiatrist and a former faculty member at Harvard Medical School, has interviewed hundreds of prisoners in solitary confinement. In one study, he found that roughly a third of solitary inmates were “actively psychotic and/or acutely suicidal.” Grassian has since concluded that solitary can cause a specific psychiatric syndrome, characterized by hallucinations; panic attacks; overt paranoia; diminished impulse control; hypersensitivity to external stimuli; and difficulties with thinking, concentration and memory. Some inmates lose the ability to maintain a state of alertness, while others develop crippling obsessions.
A 1995 study of the federal prison system found that 63 percent of suicides occurred among inmates locked in “special housing status,” such as solitary or in psychiatric seclusion cells.
A 2003 report by Human Rights Watch found that anywhere from one-fifth to two-thirds of prisoners in solitary confinement are believed to have some form of mental illness. Justice Department guidelines have recognized that the mentally ill may not be fit for solitary, as extreme isolation may cause inmates’ psychiatric conditions to dramatically deteriorate.
Until recently, solitary confinement was used only in rare instances and for short periods of time, however, now inmates are routinely subjected of stays of a year or more in Pennsylvania and across the nation.
My legislation seeks to reverse this harmful trend by prohibiting the use of solitary confinement on pregnant women, LGBTQ individuals, inmates age 21 and younger, and inmates age 70 and older and placing an absolute cap on the duration of solitary confinement at 15 days. Please join me in supporting this humanitarian measure.
Introduced as SB832