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ACLU of VA Letter to Governor McAuliffe re Solitary Confinement of Juveniles Ban, 2016

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CLAIRE GASTANAGA
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

ACLU

AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION
of VIRGINIA

January 26, 2016
The Honorable Terry McAuliffe
Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia
3 rd
Floor, Patrick Henry Building
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219

Dear Governor McAuliffe:
AMERICAN CIVIL
LIBERTIES UNION OF
VIRGINIA
701 E. FRANKLIN ST.
SUITE 1412
RICHMOND, VA 23219
T/804.644.8080
WWW .ACLUVA.ORG

Yesterday, President Barack Obama banned solitary confinement of juveniles and
announced sweeping reforms to reduce use of this horrific practice against adult prisoners
in the Federal Bureau of Prisons 1• The use of solitary confinement in our criminal justice
system makes a mockery of human and constitutional rights and harms public safety.
The ACLU of Virginia is and has been committed to limiting and abolishing the use of
solitary confinement. We urge you to follow the President's lead, and take action to 1)
ban solitary confinement of juveniles in state and local facilities in Virginia; and 2)
develop and implement effective strategies to reduce solitary confinement of adult
prisoners in the Commonwealth.
The President's action to adopt the recommendations of the United States Department of
Justice's (DOJ) Report and Recommendations Concerning the Use of Restrictive
Housing2 (the Report) will place critical limits on the use of solitary confinement that will
save thousands of prisoners from needless suffering and permanent psychological
damage. Expert research conducted in all fields of study on the terrible effects of the
practice is overwhelmingly damning, and the harm is not limited to federal facilities. The
consequences of solitary confinement reach into Virginia's prisons, jails, and juvenile
detention centers. The ACLU, in addition to many other advocacy organizations and
survivors of solitary confinement, have worked tirelessly for several years to change the
law and to educate our elected officials and the public on this awful practice that offends
our Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment3.
The physical and psychological effects of isolating a person for 22-23 hours a day for
long periods of time, sometimes even decades, with little or no human interaction or
sensory stimuli, literally drive people insane. As the Report points out, not all types of
restrictive housing are "solitary," and there are many synonyms used by correctional
systems to describe the practice. There are also varying degrees of isolation, however,
1 https ://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/01/25/fact-sheet-department-justice-review­

sol itary-confinement
2 U.S. Department of Justice Report and Recommendations Concerning the Use of Restrictive House
(January 2016), www.justice.gov/restrictivehousing.
3 ACLU Stop Solitary Campaign, https://www.aclu.org/issues/prisoners-rights/solitary-confinement.

 

 

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