from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture
(Ed. Note: Pax Christi USA has signed onto this letter.)
WASHINGTON – Today, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture joined 126 organizations, including 39 religious organizations, in urging the White House to ensure that a national review of solitary confinement leads to concrete recommendations to eliminate long-term isolation in United States prisons and jails. In July, before his historic visit to El Reno federal prison, President Obama made his most critical statements on solitary confinement to date and announced the Department of Justice will conduct a national review of the practice.
The letter to the President comes on the heels of a study of the federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) use of solitary confinement, which detailed widespread abuse, the placement of persons with severe mental illness in solitary, and estimated that more than 10,000 individuals are held in conditions of isolation by BOP on any given day.
Prolonged solitary confinement has been defined as torture by the United Nations and is widely opposed by human rights, criminal justice reform and religious organizations. The National Religious Campaign Against Torture has mobilized people of faith to oppose solitary confinement for many years. With momentum building over the past months, today over twenty national religious organizations – including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), the Union for Reform Judaism, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, and the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church – joined this call for the White House to ensure the nationwide review outlines a clear path toward ending long-term solitary confinement.
Rev. Ron Stief, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture said, “For people of faith, the widespread practice of prolonged solitary confinement in our nation’s prisons and jails is a moral outrage. It is unconscionable that, on any given day, more than 80,000 incarcerated people, including adults and youth, are held in conditions of isolation that we know to be torture. People of color, the poor, and individuals with mental illness bear the brunt of this cruelty. To deny people meaningful human interaction, through solitary confinement, is to violate their very humanity, and debase the divine spark in each of us. To release people directly from solitary confinement into our communities is not only a public safety concern, but betrays our moral commitment to justice that is truly restorative and transformative. For people of faith, it is imperative that the Obama Administration ensure that the nationwide review of solitary confinement create a road map for the elimination of this torture.”