Of all the statistics that point to an urgent need to reform the use of solitary confinement in Texas prisons, there’s one that is most striking: The Texas Department of Criminal Justice released more than 1,200 people directly from solitary confinement back into Texas communities in 2013.The article concluded:
Imagine for a moment languishing alone in a 60-square-foot cell for 22 hours a day, for months or even years. Then one day, suddenly you’re left to successfully re-enter society.
This practice needs to stop.
For too long solitary confinement has been deployed as a routine disciplinary measure, rather than as an extreme practice reserved for rare circumstances. This needs to change.
Among other reforms, we should better train our correctional officers to work with people with mental health issues. We should have an incentive program that allows prisoners in solitary to earn their way, with good behavior, back into the general population. And we should ban releasing people directly from solitary confinement back into the community.
In recent years, the Texas criminal justice system has begun to tilt the balance back toward rehabilitation for all but the most violent offenders. In the same spirit, we are overdue for a far-reaching, but entirely common sense, rethinking of the way that solitary confinement is used in our prisons.