Target: President Barack Obama
Goal: Stop keeping nonviolent offenders in solitary confinement for inhumane lengths of time.
President Obama recently authored “a series of executive actions” that will severely restrict the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons. These actions will have a far-reaching impact for both juvenile and adult offenders. Sign the petition and thank President Obama for taking steps to enact these necessary and long-overdue policies.
Solitary confinement is an incredibly taxing form of punishment proven to have severe adverse effects on those subjected to it. Studies in Washington state prisons found that inmates who spent time in solitary confinement had a 20-25% higher rate of recidivism, and those who were confined by themselves shortly before their release were more likely to commit violent crimes.
The actions laid out by Obama will reduce the amount of time an inmate can spend in solitary confinement for a first offense from 365 days to 60 days. They will also end the use of solitary confinement for juveniles, allow inmates in solitary confinement more time outside of their cells, and discourage the use of solitary confinement within 180 days of a prisoner’s release.
In the 2014 fiscal year, there were 3800 recorded instances of federal prison inmates being sent to solitary confinement for nonviolent offenses. It is estimated that at any given moment, up to 100,000 people in state and federal prisons may be held in solitary confinement. Additionally, one study found that 60% of inmates sent to solitary suffered from untreated or undiagnosed mental illness. Solitary has severe psychological affects and can worsen many mental conditions.
President Obama’s new policies will directly affect 10,000 federal prison inmates and, through the power of example, could affect many more as various states continue to enact their own prison reforms. Sign the petition and thank the president for enacting these far-reaching improvements.
Dear President Obama,
I am writing to commend you on your series of executive actions regarding solitary confinement in prisons. This psychologically damaging and overused punishment has been long overdue for reform, and I am extremely hopeful that your policies will have a positive impact at both the federal and the state level.
Solitary confinement is an extreme punishment, and evidence shows that it has too often been imposed upon inmates for nonviolent offenses. Solitary confinement should be a last resort; overusing it is evidence of a lazy and ineffective system. After all, the stated goal of our prisons is to, whenever possible, rehabilitate inmates and help them reintegrate into society in productive ways. Imposing extreme, anti-social punishments on them is hardly motivation for improvement.
I greatly appreciate your work on this issue, and I look forward to seeing how these policies play out.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Julie Tuason