Press Releases

Conyers and Jackson Lee Praise President Obama’s Actions on Solitary Confinement

Washington, DC, January 26, 2016

Yesterday, President Obama announced that U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Department of Justice, in response to the President’s directive in July, has issued a report concerning the use of solitary confinement in America.  The report includes recommended strategies for prisons at the federal, state, and local levels to pursue, safely reduce solitary confinement, and details changes that the federal Bureau of Prisons will undertake.

President Obama also stated that he will adopt the recommendations in the report, and will direct all related federal agencies to review the findings and develop a plan to address their use of solitary confinement.

In response to the announcement, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) released the following statements:

Congressman John Conyers, Jr.:  “I applaud the release of the report on solitary confinement by the President, and I am grateful for the thorough work of Attorney General Loretta Lynch in preparing the report and its recommendations.  Prisons have long over-relied on solitary confinement, which is often inhumane, ineffective, and financially wasteful.  As the report makes clear, we can reduce the use of solitary confinement while maintaining effective prison administration and not jeopardizing safety.   I hope states will adopt the changes that the President has directed to take place at the federal level, and I am particularly heartened that federal prisons will no longer place juveniles in solitary confinement, a practice that is harmful and inappropriate.  These changes are an important part of reforming our criminal justice system, I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress to pass measures that will make the system both more effective and fair.”

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: “The President’s action is a major and crucial step that will save lives of young juveniles. Solitary confinement is inhumane and can be especially destructive to children locked up in an already harsh system. Juveniles should be in a system that is rehabilitative, not life ending.

“That is why Ranking Member Conyers and I introduced a package of youth incarceration reform bills, including Kalief’s Law (H.R. 3155), a measure named in honor of a young man who tragically took his own life after spending two years in solitary at Riker’s Island without ever receiving a trial. Among other things, this bill would help avoid the loss of more young lives by banning solitary confinement for those 21 and under. 

"The President’s action is important and comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s much needed action to grant relief to juveniles serving sentences of life without parole. But it is even more important that Congress codify both of these just and humane steps for all young people, not just juveniles. Our children deserve nothing less. I am committed to making this a reality through our bipartisan criminal justice reform initiative, a key component of which will be comprehensive young justice reform legislation.”

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On a bipartisan basis, the House Judiciary Committee has been working on several bills to improve our broken criminal justice system. These bills will insure that our federal criminal laws and regulations are effectively and appropriately enforced, operate with fairness and compassion, protect individual freedom, safeguard civil liberties, work as efficiently as possible, do not impede state efforts, and do not waste taxpayer dollars. Visit our website for more information about ongoing efforts to reform our criminal justice system.