Bill to ban solitary confinement in federal prisons introduced by House lawmakers

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A bill that would broadly ban the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons, jails and detention centers was introduced by a coalition of House Democrats on Thursday, a measure that seeks to codify into law the limitations on when and how long someone can be left isolated in a cell.

Under the End Solitary Confinement Act, inmates and detainees would not be segregated alone for more than a maximum of four hours in order to de-escalate an emergency situation, and even then, staff would be required to meet with them at least once an hour. Incarcerated people would also be ensured access to at least 14 hours of daily time out of their cells, including access to seven hours of programming meant to address topics such as mental health, substance abuse and violence prevention.

Roughly 122,000 people in federal and state adult prisons and federal and local jails are placed in restrictive housing — informally known as solitary confinement — for 22 hours or more on a given day, according to a nonprofit watchdog report based on government data.

“Someday, we will look back and ask why we ever subjected people to prolonged solitary confinement and expected anything other than trauma, violence and death as a response,” said Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., who is co-leading the legislation along with fellow Democratic Reps. Sydney Kamlager-Dove of California, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, and Adriano Espaillat and Jamaal Bowman, both of New York.