This month, Congressman David Scott (GA-13), Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee, was joined by Senator Elizabeth Warren and members of the House of Representatives in sending a letter to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) questioning the use of cruel and excessive solitary confinement within federal correctional facilities.
The letter asks Director Peters why BOP has ignored a May 2022 Executive Order from President Joe Biden to reduce the use and improve the conditions of solitary confinement in federal prisons. The letter further asks for a precise breakdown of the current population being held in solitary confinement, including by racial demographics and health condition.
“I, along with this bicameral group of congressional leaders, stand united in our questioning of BOP Director Collette Peters to demand answers regarding the scope, application, and potential alternatives to solitary confinement in federal prisons,” said Congressman David Scott. “The practice is both cruel and ineffective. Even though individuals in solitary confinement make up only six to eight percent of the total prison population, they are responsible for approximately half of the suicidal deaths in custody. I also remain deeply concerned with the overrepresentation of Black and Hispanic populations and the potential civil rights violations being committed.”
Numerous studies have confirmed the ineffectiveness and negative impacts of solitary confinement. Incarcerated individuals placed in solitary confinement face greatly increased risks of developing mental or physical health disorders, even for those with no pre-existing conditions. Individuals placed in solitary confinement are more likely to reoffend and have a higher chance of unemployment once released.
This letter has been endorsed by the Southern Center for Human Rights,with Executive Director Terrica Redfield Ganzy stating, “The Southern Center has repeatedly challenged the practice of solitary confinement, which for too long has been the systemic response to the problems jails and prisons cannot solve. When people are abandoned and dehumanized, we all suffer the costs. Ending the practice of torturing people in isolation is the first step toward healing the collective trauma of mass incarceration."