President Barack Obama said he would ban solitary confinement for juvenile and low-level offenders in federal prisons, according to reports.
Obama detailed his position on solitary confinement in an opinion article published in The Washington Post on Jan. 25.
“Some studies indicate that it can worsen existing mental illnesses and even trigger new ones,” he wrote.
“Prisoners in solitary are more likely to commit suicide, especially juveniles and people with mental illnesses."
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Obama noted the case of 16-year-old Kalief Browder, who was arrested for stealing a backpack and put in prison for three years. He was placed in solitary confinement several times before being released in 2013. He killed himself in 2015.
Obama’s reforms would only affect federal prisons, although he said he hopes the changes will be a model for state and local prison systems.
According to Amy Fettig, senior staff counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union and the director of the group’s Stop Solitary Campaign, the Bureau of Prisons “has lagged behind a number of the states in reforming solitary confinement and in restricting its use and abuse.”
Fettig praised Obama’s decision to change the federal system, calling it “absolutely huge.”
“We rarely have presidents take notice of prison conditions,” Fettig said.