Success: Federal Ban Implemented on Isolation for Juveniles

Target: Barack Obama, President of the United States

Goal: Praise reforms cracking down on the overuse of solitary confinement in prisons.

Young and low-level offenders will no longer have to suffer in solitary confinement thanks to new reforms concerning the use of isolation in federal prisons. These reforms come less than a year after President Obama ordered a review of the practice, which has been shown to have devastating and long-lasting effects on mental health. Thanks to activism by citizens and non-profits, including a petition at ForceChange, this reform will help 10,000 federal prisoners currently going in and out of isolation units.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, the president wrote that solitary confinement has been linked to a host of mental health issues including depression, withdrawal, violent tendencies, and suicidal thoughts. Particularly in youth, prolonged isolation can exacerbate existing mental illness or even trigger its onset. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health concluded that prisoners kept in isolation were seven times more likely to harm themselves than other prisoners. This effect was most noticeable in juveniles and people suffering from mental illnesses.

The new federal reforms have laid protections for even the least vulnerable prisoners, mandating that isolation not be used as common punishment, but rather only when an inmate is a threat to the safety of staff, other inmates, or themselves. Prisoners in solitary confinement will be allowed more time outside their cells, and improved care standards have been implemented for the the mentally ill.

These new changes will help to prevent the tragic suicides of hundreds of prisoners a year, particularly youths and the mentally ill. Improving isolation standards will increase the chance of rehabilitation for many prisoners. Sign the petition below to thank President Obama for his isolation reforms, which include a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile prisoners.


Dear President Obama,

New reforms to the federal prison system will ensure that juvenile and low-level offenders will not be placed in solitary confinement, which has been linked to depression, self-harm, and suicide. Prisoners in isolation will receive a greater standard of mental health care, and solitary confinement will be used only as a last-resort measure.

These changes will not only help return the focus of imprisonment to rehabilitation, but will help prevent the suicides of hundreds of prisoners every year. We, the undersigned, praise your efforts to ensure that prisoners are being treated humanely.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Derek Purdy

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