Here are the rules themselves. Though non-binding (and a lucky thing, since Texas doesn't come close to complying), they prohibit indefinite solitary confinement, like Texas uses for gang members, as well as "prolonged" solitary confinement, defined as more than 15 days. (Texas has been known to utilize solitary for a bit longer than that.) The new standards insist that solitary "shall be used only in exceptional cases as a last resort for as short a time as possible and subject to independent review."
Readers may recall that the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee has an interim charge related to reentry following solitary confinement (which in Texas is called administrative segregation). They're supposed to study the issue and make recommendations to the 85th Legislature in 2017. While the UN's imprimatur may be decidedly unhelpful in Texas (think Jade Helm), the Mandela Rules show these issues are being reconsidered in many different quarters at this particular moment in history. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick assigned an interim charge on ad seg in Texas not because he's following the UN's lead; it's that the situation has become so critical it can no longer be ignored either by state leaders or at the global level.
Related Grits posts:
- First TDCJ prisoners pass 30-year mark in solitary confinement
- More inmates in solitary in Texas than entire prison systems in 12 other states combined
- On the perils of reentry following solitary confinement and possible solutions
- Does excessive use of solitary confinement harm public safety?
- Don't release inmates directly from solitary into the free world
- Push to reform ad seg lacks organic constituency