Durbin Deems New Department Of Justice Solitary Confinement Report “Deeply Disturbing,” Announces Legislative Actions

DOJ’s Bureau of Prisons reported 1,400 more individuals in restrictive housing compared to 2015

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the following statement on today’s troubling Department of Justice report on the use of solitary confinement in federal facilities: 

“Rehabilitation – and preparing adults in custody for successful reentry into society – is the ultimate goal of our criminal justice system. Today’s deeply disturbing report by the Department of Justice highlights the Bureau of Prison’s failure to accomplish that mission.

“Solitary confinement must be a last resort, limited to the briefest term and under the least restrictive conditions possible. We know the overuse of solitary confinement causes lasting, irreparable harm to incarcerated people, threatens public safety, strains prison budgets, and violates fundamental human rights. Despite this understanding, over 1,400 more people are in restrictive housing in federal prison facilities now than in December 2015. 

“This issue has been studied extensively, and now is the time for action. Today, I’m announcing my intention to reintroduce the Solitary Confinement Reform Act this Congress, and to hold a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the Bureau of Prisons this year. I encourage my colleagues to support these steps, as we continue to conduct meaningful oversight and work to improve the safety of our federal prisons.” 

Today’s report shows a troubling trajectory for the number of federal prisoners in restrictive housing, which has increased 14.5 percent (+1,436 net) since December 2015. The change was driven by a 29 percent increase (+2,384 net) in Special Housing Unit placements in the same timeframe. 

For years, Durbin has sought to address the injustices and challenges that impact the daily lives of incarcerated Americans and their families—along with the staff responsible for protecting both the people incarcerated in our federal prisons and the communities surrounding them. He has worked across the aisle to pass bipartisan legislation like the Fair Sentencing Act and the First Step Act; held hearings on harrowing conditions of confinement, including the treatment of incarcerated individuals with mental illness and the abuse of solitary confinement; and, throughout both Republican and Democratic Administrations, has pushed DOJ and BOP to improve our criminal justice system.