The Post's View: Stepping down from the ledge of solitary confinement

The Editorial Board, The Washington Post

February 21, 7:03 PM


VIRGINIA HAS come a long way since advocates called attention to the state’s appalling practice of routinely condemning prisoners to the hell of solitary confinement, particularly in the Red Onion supermax prison. But there is still a ways to go. Isolation can have debilitating effects on human beings: Death-row inmates have reported that their impending execution does not upset them nearly as much as the prospect of continued, prolonged isolation, which often amounts to mental torture.


Another [strategy] is ending the practice of isolating juveniles, who are particularly at risk of mental damage when pulled out of the general prison population. This is a reform that state Sen. Barbara A. Favola (D-Arlington) wants Virginia to pursue. She has pushed a modest bill that commands state corrections officials to rethink how and when they deny juveniles contact with others. Rather than tell prison officials precisely how to cut back on juvenile isolation, it would merely require them to write regulations that “allow the use of room segregation only when other less restrictive options have been exhausted,” with an emphasis on using isolation to ensure safety rather than as a routine punishment. 


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