President Obama to ban solitary confinement for teens

By Shawn Price  |  Jan. 26, 2016 at 12:29 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama said he will ban solitary confinement for teenage inmates, among other prison system improvements, he wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post.

The president wrote Monday that solitary confinement in U.S. prisons was "overused," often "with heartbreaking results," and he will adopt the U.S. Justice Department's recommendations from earlier this month that include banning the form of punishment for juvenile inmates or in cases of low-level infractions by inmates.

Other recommendations include expanding health treatment for the mentally ill and increasing the time inmates in solitary spend out of their cells.

President Obama's announcement came in the same week as a Supreme Court ruling that juveniles serving life sentences have the right to seek review of their sentences.

Obama also praised states that have already pulled back on usage of solitary confinement.

"Colorado cut the number of people in solitary confinement, and assaults against staff are the lowest they've been since 2006," he said. "New Mexico implemented reforms and has seen a drop in solitary confinement, with more prisoners engaging in promising rehabilitation programs. And since 2012, federal prisons have cut the use of solitary confinement by 25 percent and significantly reduced assaults on staff."

Obama said the solitary confinement reform was part of a larger push for criminal justice system reform from members of both parties. Though the president said there is still a need for prisons and for the use of solitary confinement in some situations, overall, the prison system should be "smarter, fairer, less expensive and more effective.

"We believe that when people make mistakes," he said, "They deserve the opportunity to remake their lives."

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