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Obama to Limit Solitary Confinement in Federal Prisons

February 2, 2016 | Written by Dan Margolis

The use of solitary confinement is widespread in America’s prisons, including here in Ohio. It is often used as a security measure or as punishment, but critics say overuse of confining prisoners in tiny cells with virtually no human contact violates the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment. That amendment is supposed to prevent the government from inflicting “cruel and unusual punishment” on those accused or convicted of a crime.

President Obama recently voiced his opinion on solitary confinement in an op-ed piece. In the article, as described by CNN, Obama said he would take action to protect juveniles and low-level offenders in federal prisons from being locked in solitary. In addition, he would limit the practice being used on prisoners with mental illness, and stop its use to segregate prisoners who have been threatened by other inmates.

Obama criticized solitary confinement in general, though he said it is necessary when a prisoner is thought to pose a threat to himself or to prison staff. He called the practice “increasingly overused … with heartbreaking results.” Incarceration should help rehabilitate criminals, but those who experienced solitary confinement while in prison tend to become estranged from family, struggle to keep jobs and fail to become reintegrated into society, Obama wrote.

Obama has made criminal justice reform a priority for his final year as president. Some of his announced changes were based on recommendations made by the Justice Department.

In Ohio, youthful suspects often get charged as adults. If convicted and sent to prison, 15- and 16-year-olds could be locked up with much older offenders, a prospect that should frighten most parents. Having the right defense attorney can be critical in keeping your child’s case in the juvenile system.

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