Richmond, Bipartisan Coalition Introduce the Solitary Confinement Study and Reform Act of 2015

July 30, 2015
Press Release

Washington DC -- Yesterday, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) introduced H.R. 3399, the Solitary Confinement Study and Reform Act of 2015, a bipartisan bill to dramatically reform the practice of solitary confinement in the United States federal prison system. This legislation would start a national conversation on the use of solitary confinement and move toward a more rational and fiscally responsible approach to incarceration:

Congressman Richmond:

“We have abused the practice of solitary confinement to the point where it has become modern day torture,” said Rep. Richmond. “Too many prisoners, including the seriously mentally ill and juveniles are locked away for twenty-three hours a day often with little to no due process and at a steep cost to the taxpayer. Instead of being reserved for the worst of the worst, solitary confinement is too often being overused for ‘administrative’ reasons to avoid providing treatment for the mentally ill and rehabilitation for those who will return to society. This practice, in its current form is inconsistent with our morals and values in America. We must be better than that.”

Congressman Chaffetz:

“Serious concerns have been raised about the use of solitary confinement as a punishment,” said Rep. Chaffetz. “I question whether this tactic is effective at deterring or reforming criminal behavior and, if so, whether it is being used appropriately. The impact of extended isolation on the human psyche requires additional study. As we consider changes to the criminal justice system, reforms must be grounded in reality and based on facts.”

Congressman Scott:

“Too many inmates confined to extreme periods of isolation have significant underlying mental health issues and solitary confinement only exacerbates these problems,” said Rep. Scott. “The Solitary Confinement Study and Reform Act will ensure that we have all the available data to better understand the impacts of solitary confinement so that we can develop and implement national standards to reduce the use of this practice in our nation’s prisons.”

Congressman Rooney:

"As we work toward bipartisan reform, we need to look at all aspects of our criminal justice system to determine what works and what doesn't,” said Rep. Rooney. “This bill will establish evidence-based standards and best practices to help ensure that punishments are necessary, appropriate and effective."

The Solitary Confinement Study and Reform Act of 2015 would:

  • Establish the National Solitary Confinement Study and Reform Commission to work with all pertinent stakeholders to study the practice of solitary confinement and recommend best practices for reform to Congress and the Administration
  • Require the Department of Justice to issue regulations on best practices in this area that would bind facilities in the Federal prison system and incentivize changes in behavior in state and local prison systems
  • Bring about significant changes to the way mentally ill prisoners and juvenile offenders are designated for solitary confinement

The Solitary Confinement Study and Reform Act of 2015 is supported by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.