Everyone Can Play a Role!
IAHR - along with more than 20 other organizations - seeks greater transparency about the use of solitary confinement as a first step to reducing its use. Why focus on this when there are so many other areas of reform? There are two reasons: estimates from other states tell us that solitary confinement costs three times as much as managing the general population in prison. Vast research tells us that the use of prolonged solitary confinement is destabilizing to the personality and that the effects can also be long term. It is a human rights issue as well as a cost savings issue.
- From 2012 to 2015 the use of solitary confinement grew to more than 9% of the Maryland prison population - more than double the national average.
- In Maryland people can be put into solitary for minor infractions
- The average length of stay is 130 days in solitary.
- The average length of stay for someone who is mentally ill is 228 days.
The UN Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez (Professor of Law at American University in Washington, DC), states that more than 15 consecutive days in solitary can be tantamount to torture.
95% of those who are in prison will be released to the community. How they are treated in prison is an important component in their ability to re-enter society successfully.
IAHR will introduce legislation this year to track the use of solitary - called segregation in Maryland. With a new Secretary of Corrections, it is our hope that he will initiate change. What we have found is that Corrections will respond to the legislature, if not to the public. For that reason we need legislation that requires reporting and transparency as the Department tracks its reform efforts in the use of solitary confinement.
As an end game, we seek the re-allocation of funds saved from reducing solitary to train staff to deal with the mentally ill (estimates range from 15 - 30 %) and to treat addiction, provide education and meaningful job training.
There are alternatives to solitary that protect public safety, reduce prison violence and save money.