Supreme Court Justice Kennedy: "Solitary Confinement Literally Drives Men Mad"

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Monday used long-term solitary confinement as evidence that the “idea of total incarceration just isn’t working.” Solitary “literally drives men mad,” Kennedy said, noting that more humane alternatives are employed elsewhere in the world. Kennedy’s comments were made during a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the 2016 Budget Request for […]

New Federal Supermax Prison Will Double Capacity for Extreme Solitary Confinement

Amid growing controversy around the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails, and in advance of an audit of its own prison “segregation” practices, the federal government is quietly moving ahead with a plan that would significantly increase its capacity to house individuals in long-term isolation. The 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill passed by […]

For Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons, A Year of Incremental Reform

As the year ended, The Marshall Project provided a comprehensive roundup of reforms to solitary confinement practices across the country. Eli Hager and Gerald Rich write: “In 2014 one of the most controversial practices in criminal justice, solitary confinement, faced unprecedented challenges. As a result of legislation or lawsuits, ten states adopted 14 measures aimed at […]

Controversy Erupts at Public Meeting on New Rikers Island Isolation Units

On Friday, December 19th, hundreds packed into the audience at a meeting of the New York City Board of Correction (BOC), the body that oversees New York City’s jail system. At issue was the use of solitary confinement on Rikers Island—specifically, whether to move forward with a new, highly-restrictive Enhanced Supervision Housing unit (ESHU). The […]

After 42 Years in Solitary Confinement, Will the Angola 3's Albert Woodfox Be a Free Man?

In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the overturning of Albert Woodfox’s conviction. Yet he may remain in prison–and in solitary confinement–for months or even years before his four-decade ordeal is over. Woodfox has been held in solitary confinement for more than 42 years for the 1972 murder […]

Pope Francis Denounces Solitary Confinement, Calls for Prison Conditions That "Respect Human Dignity"

In a wide-ranging speech on Thursday, Pope Francis revealed himself as a passionate criminal justice reformer. His words also suggest that he is familiar with the controversies surrounding solitary confinement and supermax prisons, and strongly opposes their use. Speaking at the Vatican to representatives of the International Association of Penal Law, the Pope said: “All Christians and people […]

Holder Makes Obama Administration's First Public Statement on Solitary Confinement

In a weekly video message earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder made the first public statement on solitary confinement to emerge from the Obama White House (or, as far as we know, any U.S. presidential administration). A statement accompanying the 3-minute video on the Department of Justice’s website outlines the position taken by Holder–and, by implication, the DOJ […]