Proposed Federal Legislation

Bi-partisan Legislation MERCY Act in U.S. Senate and House, February 2017

In February 2017, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Senator James Lankford (R-OK) introduced the Maintaining dignity and Eliminating Restrictive Confinement of Youth Act (S. 329), a federal bill banning solitary confinement for youth. The MERCY Act, which has bi-partisan support, also requires the Attorney General to create a report on why and how solitary confinement was used, data on solitary confinement disaggregated by race and ethnicity, and steps taken by each facility to reduce future solitary confinement.

There is a companion bill in the U.S. House sponsored by Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Representative Mia Love (R-UT). Read the press release from Senator Booker’s Office.

Federal Solitary Confinement Reform Act, September 2016

On September 28, 2016, Senator Durbin and others introduced the Solitary Confinement Reform Act, S. 3432. Click here to read the Senator’s press release. The Act would limit solitary confinement for youth in federal custody to situations where the youth’s behavior presents an immediate threat, and then only for a period of four hours. After four hours, staff must take certain steps, including getting approval from the facility director every four hours.

Federal Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, October 2015

A bi-partisan group of Senators introduced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, legislation that would limit the use of solitary confinement for youth in federal custody to situations in which the young person poses a serious and immediate threat of physical harm, and then only for brief periods of no more than three hours. The language in the Act is taken from the JDAI Standards. This legislation has not passed the U.S. Senate.