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Obama Issues Executive Order Banning Solitary Confinement for Juveniles in Federal Prison

Obama Issues Executive Order Banning Solitary Confinement for Juveniles in Federal Prison

What happens to an individual who is put into solitary confinement?

This week, President Obama announced an executive order banning solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons. The Supreme Court also made news when they decided to retroactive the Miller v. Alabama decision, allowing for more individuals to have their cases reviewed.

Back here in Michigan, our legislation has already been actively looking into prison reform, in particular how we treat juvenile offenders. For more information, please read on.

“Solitary Confinement Particularly Dangerous”

The Washington Post quoted President Obama saying,

“How can we subject prisoners to unnecessary solitary confinement, knowing its effects, and then expect them to return to our communities as whole people?” Obama wrote in his op-ed. “It doesn’t make us safer. It’s an affront to our common humanity.”

The Huffington Post reported that Obama went on to link solitary confinement to suicide and other mental health issues, calling it “particularly dangerous.”

President Obama reminded Americans of a 16-year old who was put into solitary confinement for two years while awaiting his trial for stealing a backpack. Kalief Browder was released without standing trial. He suffered traumatic stress from his stay at Rikers Island. At the age of 22, he completed suicide.

The Washington Post reported that,

“A congressionally mandated audit of restrictive housing in federal prisons, published last year by the Center for Naval Analyses’ Institute for Public Research, found that roughly 60 percent of the inmates whose solitary cases were reviewed had serious underdiagnosed or untreated mental illnesses.”

Supreme Court Ruling on Life Without Parole

In addition, The Huffington Post reported that the Supreme Court (Montgomery v. Louisiana) decided to make the decision made in Miller v. Alabama retroactive. The Miller v. Alabama said that life without parole is only appropriate for juveniles in “the rarest of cases.”

This means many people all over the United States have an opportunity to have their cases reviewed.

Michigan’s Work on Its Prison System

The state of Michigan has already been hard at work on our prison system. With about a quarter to a fifth of Michigan’s general fund budget going to the prisons, Michigan legalization has been looking at how to do what Governor Snyder calls “smarter justice”.

Already, Michigan legalization is asking itself, should we change the way we treat juvenile offenders? Recently, a package of bills came forward. One piece of these bills is that they would raise the age of juvenile status in Michigan from 17-18 years old. It would also make it more difficult to waive juveniles into adult court for all crimes except the most serious violent crimes like rape and murder.

For more about that, please see,

Final Thoughts

The Huffington Post quoted President Obama saying,

“United States is a nation of second chances, but the experience of solitary confinement too often undercuts that second chance.”

Your Turn

How should we approach reforming the prison system? Do you agree with President Obama? Is the United State a nation of second chances? Do you think the proposed prison reforms will align with that statement?

This article was published on: January 29, 2016 and was last modified March 24, 2017