Maine’s Success Shows Reform is Both Necessary and Possible
“Solitary confinement is dangerous, cruel and costly. Thankfully, a movement to reform solitary is growing quickly, and we are hopeful that other states and the federal government will join Maine in making changes that benefit everyone,” said Zachary Heiden, ACLU of Maine legal director and the author of the report. “Maine’s state motto is Dirigo, ‘I lead.’ Solitary confinement reform should be a case in point.”
Working closely with corrections officials, the ACLU of Maine, the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition and others undertook a campaign to reform solitary confinement in Maine seven years ago. Since then, Maine has reduced the population of its solitary confinement Special Management Unit (SMU) by over 70 percent.
As the report describes, in addition to reducing the overall SMU population, prisoners who do end up in solitary in Maine spend less time there, are treated like human beings while there, and are shown a clear path to reentry into the general prison population. This was accomplished without compromising the safety of prison staff or other prisoners, and with significant cost and resource savings.
“Maine’s successful reforms represent a rebuttal to everyone who declares that solitary reform cannot or should not be done,” said Heiden. “Reform of this brutal practice is both necessary and possible. Our hope is that this report will provide some measure of encouragement in those difficult moments that every worthwhile campaign experiences.”
The group will submit the report to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) tomorrow and urge the commission to investigate the use of solitary confinement nationwide. The IACHR is an autonomous arm of the Organization of American States whose mission is to promote and protect human rights in the American hemisphere.
The report and accompanying materials, including a podcast with Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte, are available online at ww.aclumaine.org/changeispossible.
- To our brothers inside the walls: a report back from the hearing on solitary confinement (moorbey.wordpress.com)
- The “Vicious Cycles” Created by Solitary Confinement (moorbey.wordpress.com)
- Solitary Confinement: Punishment Or Cruelty? (npr.org)