(January 26, 2016, San Francisco, CA)—Yesterday, President Obama announced an executive order placing essential restrictions on the use of solitary confinement in the federal prison system. The order bans solitary confinement of youth, reduces the use of solitary confinement for protective custody, and requires that prisoners with serious mental illnesses receive treatment rather than solitary confinement.
Statement by National Center for Lesbian Rights Youth Policy Director Shannan Wilber:
“Acknowledging the devastating and lifelong psychological damage caused by isolating prisoners, the President’s order brings federal policy into line with the growing number of states that have significantly limited or prohibited the practice. These reforms are particularly important given the extreme racial disparities in the prison system, including the disproportionate imprisonment and solitary confinement of people of color. NCLR wholeheartedly agrees that the excessive and unnecessary use of solitary confinement utterly fails to promote anyone’s safety and is an ‘affront to our common humanity.
The movement to ban solitary confinement of youth is particularly critical to advancing the well-being of incarcerated LGBTQ youth. Correctional officials often place LGBTQ youth in isolation for long periods as a means of protecting them from violence and sexual assault. Rather than protecting, them, however, this practice causes severe and lasting harms. Isolating LGBTQ youth to “protect” them violates their rights, and circumvents the obligation of officials to ensure the safety of all youth in their custody—including LGBTQ youth.
Placing youth in solitary confinement based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity subjects them to unconscionable harm and tacitly reinforces the bias and ignorance that jeopardize LGBTQ youth in their homes, schools, and communities. President Obama’s executive order extends critical protections to all youth in federal custody, and lends critical support to the national movement to end this cruel and harmful practice for all prisoners.”