Torture Free MD Campaign

IAHR is launching a new campaign in Maryland, Torture Free MD. More information will be out soon; for now please email our Director of Community Engagement, Natasha White, at [email protected], for more information. 

Solitary Confinement for Incarcerated Adults

For many years, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) refused to give out information about how much solitary confinement (prolonged isolation) is used in state prisons.

During the legislative session of 2016, IAHR along with its coalition partners introduced a bill that would mandate DPSCS to report on the use of solitary confinement.  According to the bill the Department had to report the following statistics:

  • The total facility population;
  • The number of individuals held in restrictive housing, by age, race, and ethnicity;
  • The number of persons with serious mental illness held in restrictive housing;
  • The definition of serious mental illness used by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services;
  • The number of prisoners known to be pregnant who were held in restrictive housing;
  • The average and median lengths of stay in restrictive housing;
  • The reasons for which individuals were placed in restrictive housing;
  • The number of incidents of death, self-harm, and attempts at self-harm by individuals held in restrictive housing;
  • The number of individuals released from restrictive housing directly to the community;
  • Any additional information that is important to understanding the facility’s use of restrictive housing; and
  • Any changes to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Service’s policies regarding the use of restrictive housing.

The bill passed and was signed into law at the end of May 2016. 

DPSCS has published three reports which come out during the first week of January. These reports have revealed that Maryland places into solitary confinement 50% of its prison population. The average length of stay was anywhere from 43 to 51 days. Over the past three years 837 people have been released to the community directly from solitary. Over 600 people with serious mental illness have been placed in solitary between 2016 and 2018. To read the 2018 report, click here. 

DPSCS failed to issue a report in 2020 and still has not issued a report in 2021. 

During the 2019 Maryland legislative session, IAHR along with its coalition partners introduced two bills to limit the use of solitary. HB 1029 limited the amount of time a seriously mentally ill person could be placed in solitary to 15 consecutive days.  This bill gained little traction and was never considered in either the Senate or the House of Delegates.

HB 1002 prohibited the direct release to the community of incarcerated people directly from solitary.  It called for the Department to provide transitional services to within six months of release to the community.  This bill was amended in the House of Delegates and was brought to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.  However, the Judicial Proceedings Committee failed to take a vote on the bill before the close of the legislative session on April 8, 2019. 

In 2020, the bill to end direct release was re-introduced and was about to be voted on when the Legislature closed because of the coronavirus shutdown. The bill was once again introduced in the 2021 session.The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill in January. As of this date (March 11), the Judiciary Committee has not taken a vote on the direct release bill.  

Juvenile Detentions in Maryland

As a result of national media coverage which highlighted the isolation and confinement of Maryland juveniles in local jails, IAHR has joined with partners to seek out alternatives for these youth which will provide programming and alternative housing. 

During the 2019 legislative session, HB 1001 was passed which prohibits placing minors into restrictive housing (solitary confinement or segregation) unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the incarcerated minor poses an immediate threat to the safety and security of inmates and staff.