ANNAPOLIS, MD - Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland joined allies in heralding passage in both chambers of the General Assembly of legislation to require the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to report annually on the use of solitary confinement, or "restrictive housing" (SB 946/HB1180).
In 2010, a study showed that Maryland places 8 percent of inmates in restrictive housing, twice the national average of 4-5 percent. In 2015, the state revealed in a letter to a legislator that Maryland's use of restrictive housing remained at about 8 percent. The average length of stay in "segregation" is between 124-130 days. Mentally ill inmates fare even worse, according to the state's letter. They are placed in restrictive housing at a rate of 15.5 percent (twice that of the general population), and spend about 224-228 days in segregation. According to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, the mentally ill should never be placed in isolation.
Statements from legislative leaders and advocates:
Senator Mike Hough (R-Frederick, Carroll)
"This bill is a simple, but crucial, transparency measure. Unfortunately people with mental illnesses often end up in prison and then in solitary confinement. This bill will help to identify if that is a problem in Maryland."
Senator Lisa Gladden (D-Baltimore City)
"I have been fighting for the passage of this important bill for several years. I am grateful that the Maryland General Assembly moving toward rectifying the multitude of injuries created when solitary confinement is imposed. Even the federal government is making great strides to curb the use of this form of punishment."
Delegate Jill Carter (D-Baltimore City)
"Maryland uses solitary confinement at twice the national average, that is unacceptable. I hope this reporting requirement will encourage our corrections officials to rethink the way they treat our brothers and sisters behind bars."
Delegate Trent Kittleman (R-Carroll, Howard)
"Transparency is the first step toward accountability and reform. Secretary Moyer is committed to reform in this area, so this bill will support his efforts."
Toni Holness, Policy Counsel, ACLU of Maryland
"Overuse of solitary confinement is inhumane and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Moreover, it does not make our prisons safer. The bill will shed light on this ineffective practice, which wreaks havoc on healthy prisoners and worsens the conditions of those already suffering from mental illness."
Rabbi Feinberg, Interfaith Action for Human Rights
"At last! Transparency about the use of isolated confinement in Maryland! Good for us all."