Support MD HB1144/SB1085-Restrictive Housing in Maryland

Please sign this letter directed to the Delegates of the Maryland Judiciary Committee and the Senators of the Judicial Proceedings Committee asking them to pass HB1144 and SB1085, ending prolonged isolation in Maryland State Prisons.

March 1, 2024

Dear Members of the Maryland House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee,

The undersigned organizations and individuals strongly support the passage of SB1085/HB1144 during the current Maryland legislative session.  These are identical, cross-filed bills aimed at restricting the use of solitary confinement in Maryland’s state-run correctional facilities.

The detrimental effects of solitary confinement (called “restrictive housing” in Maryland) cannot be overstated. 

  • Isolated Persons Suffer.  Incarcerated persons placed in restrictive housing suffer physical and psychological harms, such as psychosis, trauma, severe depression, serious self-injury, or suicide.
  • Families Suffer.  When an individual is in restrictive housing, that person is often banned from getting visits and calls from family—this not only punishes families, it breaks down the family ties that are crucial to supporting people upon re-entry.
  • Communities Suffer.  Research shows that time spent in solitary may increase people’s likelihood of post-release offending, especially violent re-offending. This is even worse when incarcerated people are released directly from restrictive housing into the community, causing a serious threat to public safety.
  • Solitary Confinement Costs More. Housing people in solitary confinement costs more than housing them in prison generally, and restricting the use of solitary saves money. For example, Mississippi saved $8 million after 2010, and Illinois saved $26 million after 2013.  In 2016-2017, California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation budget was projected to decrease by $28 million if limitations were imposed on the use of solitary (Rodriguez, 2016).

In Fiscal Year 2022, the most recent year for which data have been released by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services:

  • The use of solitary confinement increased by 39%,
  • Individuals were subjected to solitary nearly 12,000 times, with a startling 25.8% of the prison population being placed in solitary at least once during the year.
  • The average length of stay in solitary confinement was 42.5 days.
  • There are significant racial disparities in the imposition of solitary confinement.
  • Although the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture has found that mentally ill persons should never be placed in restrictive housing, 370 people with serious mental illness were placed in restrictive housing in Maryland.
  • 135 people were released directly to the community, after spending an average of 59 days in restrictive housing.

Given these stark realities, it is imperative for Maryland to take decisive action to curtail the use of solitary confinement. SB1085/HB1144 presents an opportunity for our state to align with the growing number of states that have implemented substantial restrictions on solitary confinement practices.

We urge you to prioritize the passage of HB 1144 and SB 1085 during this legislative session. By supporting this legislation, you will not only uphold human rights and contribute to the creation of a more just and humane correctional system in Maryland but also make our communities safer for everyone.

Please sign the letter no later than Sunday, March 3, 2024.

Thank you in advance for your support of this crucial legislation.

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