CONNECTICUT PROPOSED LAW TO LIMIT SOLITARY
In March 2017, the Connecticut General Assembly introduced legislation, HB 7302, that will limit the use of solitary confinement, especially for vulnerable populations, including young people. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 4, 2017, was passed by the Connecticut House on June 6, 2017, and signed by the Governor in July 2017. Under the bill, a “child” can be isolated only “as a temporary emergency response to a substantiated threat of imminent physical harm to correctional staff or other inmates.” Connecticut statute § 46b-120 defines a child as anyone under eighteen years of age and has not been legally emancipated, or eighteen years of age or older and committed a delinquent act prior to attaining eighteen years of age, or who, before turning eighteen years of age violates any order of the Superior Court or any condition of probation ordered by the Superior Court with respect to a delinquency proceeding.” Isolation may not exceed eight consecutive hours or 24 hours in a seven day period. After that time, staff must return the youth to the general population or consult with a qualified mental health professional to decide if the youth needs treatment at a mental health facility. Isolation should be used for the shortest amount of time reasonably possible and only after staff have attempted less restrictive alternatives. The law also requires staff to receive training on de-escalation and trauma and orders measures to ensure the health and well-being of staff. On March 27, 2017, the General Assembly held a hearing on the bill.
INSIDE THE BOX
In February 2017, the ACLU of Connecticut, The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) and The Yale Undergraduate Prison Project laid important foundation for HB 7302 by educating legislators and the public on solitary confinement with Inside the Box. Inside the Box is a multi-faceted program operated by NRCAT to enable advocates to “experience, get educated, and become equipped to advocate.” Inside the Box was on display in three New Haven libraries and later the Connecticut state Capitol Building, where law makers were able to see and experience the true nature of solitary confinement. Inside the Box used NRCAT’s Replica Cell, a 10 x 12 replica solitary confinement cell accompanied by an audio track from an actual solitary confinement unit.