See proposed Federal Legislation here.
CONNECTICUT HOUSE BILL 7302 of 2017
In March 2017, the Connecticut General Assembly introduced legislation, HB 7302, that will limit the use of solitary confinement, especially for vulnerable populations, including young people. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 4, 2017 and passed the Connecticut House on June 6, 2017. Under the bill, a “child” can be isolated only “as a temporary emergency response to a substantiated threat of imminent physical harm to correctional staff or other inmates.” Connecticut statute § 46b-120 defines a child as anyone under eighteen years of age and has not been legally emancipated, or eighteen years of age or older and committed a delinquent act prior to attaining eighteen years of age, or who, before turning eighteen years of age violates any order of the Superior Court or any condition of probation ordered by the Superior Court with respect to a delinquency proceeding.” Isolation may not exceed eight consecutive hours or 24 hours in a seven day period. After that time, staff must return the youth to the general population or consult with a qualified mental health professional to decide if the youth needs treatment at a mental health facility. Isolation should be used for the shortest amount of time reasonably possible and only after staff have attempted less restrictive alternatives. The law also requires staff to receive training on de-escalation and trauma and orders measures to ensure the health and well-being of staff.
- Read testimony on HB 7302 from the ACLU and NRCAT
- Read testimony on HB 7302 from members of the public
- Read more about advocacy through Inside the Box, where law makers spent time in a replica solitary cell
FLORIDA SENATE BILL 812 of 2013
SB 812, or the Youth in Solitary Confinement Reduction Act, would have prohibited the Department of Corrections or a local facility from subjecting a youth to solitary confinement except under certain circumstances; prohibited youth from “emergency: cell confinement for more than 24 hours; prohibited a youth prisoner from being subjected to disciplinary cell confinement for more than 72 hours. The bill died in the Criminal Justice Committee in 2013.
NEW MEXICO HOUSE BILL 175 of 2017
The New Mexico legislature passed House Bill 175, a bill that would have prohibited the use of solitary confinement for youth under 18 and pregnant women, and limit use on those with mental illnesses to a maximum of 48 hours in March 2017. HB 175 was introduced in January 2017 by Representative Joe Maestas, while the companion Senate Bill 185 was introduced by Mary Kay Papen. Though county officials and some state corrections officers initially opposed the bill’s ban on all solitary confinements, amendments that permitted up to 48 hours of isolation for those suffering from mental illness secured support from the union representing jail and prison guards. The bill also required quarterly reports from jails and prisons to the county commissions and the legislature, showing the demographic information for all inmates placed in solitary, how long they spent isolated and the reasons for it. New Mexico does not currently track data on how many kids, or adults, are subjected to solitary confinement. The state Department of Children Youth and Families claims that it does not use solitary in its facilities but is not able to offer information about whether solitary is used in the seven county facilities where kids are held before trial. Unfortunately, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez vetoed legislation on April 6, 2017. In her veto statement, Martinez said the bill “oversimplifies and misconstrues isolated confinement,” despite the fact that the bill had bipartisan support and support from correctional unions. The Governor’s veto of HB 175 also comes despite the fact that the New Mexico counties, including Doña Ana and Sandoval counties, have already paid millions of dollars in several cases brought by children and people suffering from symptoms of mental illness after they were subjected to harsh conditions in isolation. Read more about the litigation.
NEVADA SENATE BILL 402 of 2017
Senate Bill 402, introduced by Senator Pat Spearman, would limit solitary confinement for youth in Nevada. The bill prohibits facilities from using solitary confinement to punish youth, and permit solitary only when the child presents a serious and immediate threat of harm to self, others, or to the security of the facility and all less-restrictive options have been exhausted. SB 402 provides that youth “with serious mental illness or other significant mental impairments” may not be placed in solitary confinement at all. The bill also requires regular reporting by all correctional facilities on the inmates who are held in isolation. Aside from numbers, the reports would have to include specific details about inmates’ circumstances and how long they were held in segregation.
- Read the letter of support from the Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice
- Read neutral written testimony from the Nevada Department of Corrections Director
NEW JERSEY S. 51 – 2016
New Jersey S. 51 – Isolated Confinement in Correctional Facilities – was introduced by Senator Lesniak and received bipartisan support in 2016. The bill banned isolation “unless there is reasonable cause to believe that the inmate or others would be at risk of serious harm, and any less restrictive intervention would be insufficient to reduce that risk, requires the evaluation of inmates places in such confinement by a clinician and a determination as to whether the inmate is a member of a vulnerable population.” Governor Christie vetoed the bill on December 5, 2016.
NEW JERSEY A 314 – ISOLATED CONFINEMENT RESTRICTION ACT 2018
In 2018, a similar bill was introduced: NJ A 314, or the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act.
VIRGINIA SENATE BILL 215 – 2016
This bill, introduced by Senator Barbara Favola, would have limited the use of solitary confinement for youth. While that legislation did not advance, the Virginia Commission on Youth (VCOY) did undertake a study on the use of isolation because S.B. 215 would have required the Board of Juvenile Justice (BJJ) to create regulations on the use of room segregation in juvenile facilities. The VCOY completed a study and released a Final Report on the use of segregation in youth facilities in December 2016. The Report made two recommendations:
- The BJJ, in consultation with experts in the fields of mental health and juvenile justice and child-rights advocates, should promulgate regulations on the use of room segregation in juvenile correctional facilities and detention homes.
- The VCOY should continue to monitor the Department of Juvenile Justice’s comprehensive review of the residential requirements for juvenile correctional centers and secure juvenile detention centers which began in the summer of 2016, and request presentation updates from the department as needed.