Over the last year, IAHR’s has continued to build its visibility and impact through an extensive set of activities and initiatives. Our professional staff, dedicated volunteers and generous contributors have made all of this possible – and laid the foundation for even greater accomplishments in the coming years.
Legislation is a critical part of our effort.
- Bills we supported in Maryland that were successful in 2019 include a ban on solitary for juveniles, a ban on involuntary medical isolation for women who are pregnant or recuperating from pregnancy, and provision of medical treatment to incarcerated persons with addictions.
- Virginia passed a reporting requirement we sponsored this year on the extent and nature of solitary confinement in its prisons. As our experience in Maryland shows, having public information on solitary confinement in Virginia will be critical in arguing for future reform legislation.
- We are now focused on passing a reporting bill in the District. The reports will provide powerful evidence for our penal reform activity and that of our DC allies. IAHR is also part of a coalition seeking reform of parole practices in the District
Our efforts to provide Individual Support to those suffering from solitary confinement are another focus for IAHR.
- Our Pen Pal Program continues to grow. This program helps to relieve the isolation of prisoners from DC incarcerated hundreds or thousands of miles from home in the federal penal system. Even if they are not in solitary confinement, these persons are isolated – from friends and family, often for years on end. We now have 135 pen pals corresponding with 145 incarcerated persons. They each offer a friendly voice from back home through their on-going personal correspondence. A separate pen pal program serves Virginia.
- IAHR regularly receives personal appeals for help from those held in solitary confinement. Just an inquiry from us to prison administration can produce better conditions for the prisoner.
Public Awareness of our issues is the foundation for all our progress. Our best ally is a compassionate electorate that is well informed on the conditions of incarceration.
- Our voice has been heard widely in area media. This includes newspapers such as the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post and broadcast stations including WTKR in Norfolk.
- IAHR also conducts public Forums on Solitary Confinement that share our message with hundreds of attendees. Forums in 2018 and 2019 have included those held in Baltimore, Frederick and Richmond.
- This year, IAHR produced Reflecting on the Use of Solitary Confinement – a compelling video that spells out the imperative of ending solitary confinement. I hope you will view it and share it!
- Our website, https://www.interfaithactionhr.org/, and blog have become an increasingly rich source for all those who care about justice for our incarcerated brothers and sisters.