U.S. Senate panel examines impact of solitary confinement

AFSC supports congressional efforts to seek an immediate end to the use of solitary confinement for extended periods. AFSC recently submitted testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing on Solitary Confinement.

In 1944, the Quakers formed the Prison Service Committee to provide support for and monitor the conditions of incarceration endured by people who had been imprisoned for conscientious objection to war. Since then, AFSC has sought to provide individual and collective advocacy over conditions of incarceration; policy advocacy against mass incarceration; the death penalty, life without parole sentencing, and immigration detention.

In the course of our work, we have documented scores of prison abuses including the use of stun guns and restraint devices, rape, prison chain gangs, and inadequate medical care. Letters we have received from prisoners across the U.S. document significant, systemic problems in the area of solitary confinement.

Through the efforts of AFSC, its regional programs, and allies, we have achieved the following changes in the use of solitary confinement:

  • Maine – 60 percent reduction in prison population held in isolation, and the ending of solitary confinement in the mental health unit
  • Michigan – 30 percent reduction in people held in administrative segregation since 2008; closure of a maximum security prison;
  • New Jersey - Secured litigation leading to release of 80 people from a control unit and closing of security threat group (“gang”) unit;
  • California – Prisoners on hunger strike at Pelican Bay facility chose as mediator AFSC regional director, who helped secure minor concessions. Larger issues currently in litigation.