President Barack Obama has announced new rules that will change the way that federal prisons operate. For starters, putting juvenile offenders in solitary confinement has now been banned due to a belief that it is overused and can lead to severe psychological damage.
Secondly, the longest amount of time that a federal prisoner can spend in solitary confinement for a first offense was dropped to 60 days from the current minimum of 365 days, according to The Washington Post.
The reform is the result of studies showing that inmates who spent time in solitary confinement before release have a much more difficult time finding their way back into society and often returned to crime and the federal prison system. It’s strongly believed that this is because of the negative psychological effects that come as a result of long-term isolation.
By starting the process on a federal level, Obama hopes that states will soon follow suit. The fact that nearly a dozen were already in the process of reforming their policies is a good sign that that may happen in a lot of cases.
A story that Obama used to support this claim in a Washington Post op-ed focused on Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old that was taken to into custody in 2010 after suspicion of stealing a backpack. While in Rikers Island, Browder spend two years in solitary confinement only to be released in 2013 without having ever been convicted or needing a day in court. Browder committed suicide at the age of 22.
This devastating tale serves as a reminder that solitary confinement is both overused and can have serious long-term effects on the prison population, which is mostly composed of black inmates.
Towards the end of Barack Obama’s presidency, he’s doing what not many presidents before him have done and is addressing issues that affect black lives on an institutional level.
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