Petition to Massachusetts policymakers:
It is time for Massachusetts to reform its antiquated and ineffective solitary confinement practices that are costly, counter to current evidence-based practices, damaging rather than rehabilitative in nature, and detrimental to successful reentry.
Voluminous research substantiating the damaging effects of solitary confinement is leading states across the country to pass reforms aimed at reducing costs, reducing the harm to individuals placed in solitary confinement, and reducing the negative impact that overuse of segregation can have on communities. These states have reported major cost savings in the millions per year while enhancing public safety. A recent study by the DOC’s own mental health contractor, MHM Services, Inc., found that when prisoners are removed from solitary confinement and given rehabilitative programming, their self-harm, assaultive, and other disruptive behaviors decrease.
Unfortunately, solitary is a widely used practice in Massachusetts. In fact, Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states that allows prisoners to spend up to 10 consecutive years in solitary confinement for each disciplinary infraction in a unit called the Departmental Disciplinary Unit (DDU). Black and Latino prisoners represent 70% of people in this unit, which is the harshest solitary unit in our state.
We urge you to pass sweeping reforms this legislative session that would deter vulnerable populations from solitary confinement, end the DDU, improve conditions in segregation units, create an oversight body to ensure that the practice is not abused, and mandate that correctional facilities make data public about those who are held in solitary confinement.
There are currently four proposed pieces of legislation at the State House to reform the use of solitary confinement. The following bills would reform these practices in Massachusetts: S1297 / H2249 and S1296/H2248 (sponsored by Sen. Cynthia Creem and Rep. Ruth Balser), S1306/HD3460 (sponsored by Sen. Jamie Eldridge and Rep. Russell Holmes), and S1286 / HD3368 (sponsored by Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Rep. Chris Markey). These measures are supported by two broad based coalitions, the Coalition for Effective Public Safety and Massachusetts Against Solitary Confinement, which are comprised of Commonwealth residents and organizations such as the ACLU, Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition, Amnesty International, the Real Cost of Prisons Project, Black and Pink, End Mass Incarceration Together (EMIT)/Unitarian Universalist (UU) Mass Action Network, a number of faith-based organizations, and advocates from the mental health, juvenile justice, criminal justice, and education fields.
We urge you to support these measures and do all you can to ensure their passage this session. We must take this opportunity now to change the outdated, ineffective and harmful practices of solitary confinement and instead employ evidence-based practices that are proven to reduce recidivism and enhance public safety for all residents of the Commonwealth.
Sign the petition
- Solitary Confinement: The Case for Change in Massachusetts, a white paper by Prisoners’ Legal Services