By Stacy M. Brown
A group of House Democrats is spearheading legislative efforts to dismantle the practice of solitary confinement, a punitive measure that disproportionately affects Black and brown inmates within the American penal system.
Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, a passionate advocate for criminal justice reform, leads this critical initiative. Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D) of Michigan, Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D) of California and Jamaal Bowman (D) of New York are among Bush’s colleagues joining the effort.
Together, they have introduced groundbreaking legislation to abolish solitary confinement within federal prisons and jails, effectively addressing a glaring issue within the nation’s correctional system.
The proposed legislation does not merely seek to banish this punitive practice; it also aims to institute vital due process safeguards for individuals where solitary confinement is the sole recourse. Further, the bill offers incentives to states, encouraging them to adopt similar legislation at the local level, fostering a more equitable and humane justice system.
Bush minced no words in denouncing the practice of isolating incarcerated individuals, referring to it as a “moral catastrophe.” She underscored the gravity of the situation, citing United Nations experts who have characterized solitary confinement as psychological torture.
“This practice is traumatic for people subjected to it, harmful to communities, and alarmingly, it disproportionately impacts Black and brown individuals, young people, LGBTQ+ members, and other marginalized communities,” Bush passionately asserted.
Rep. Bowman echoed Bush’s sentiments, declaring that such a method of imprisonment has no place in the United States. He emphasized the stark reality that harsh practices like solitary confinement directly target marginalized groups, particularly people of color.
“We must put an end to this cruel and traumatic form of punishment for the well-being of all,” Bowman insisted.
Rep. Kamlager-Dove expressed her profound disapproval of solitary confinement, likening it to a grave human rights violation that would be condemned in any other context or country. She also emphasized the necessity of treating incarcerated individuals as human beings, mainly if the goal is rehabilitation and significantly reducing recidivism rates.
“If we aspire for those within the penal system to emerge rehabilitated and less likely to reoffend, we must prioritize treating them as individuals deserving of dignity and respect,” Kamlager-Dove stated.