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Connecticut will begin to limit the use of solitary confinement in prisons

This Jan. 28, 2016, photo shows a solitary confinement cell at New York City's Riker's Island jail. On Thursday, March 31, 2016, a federal judge approved a sweeping plan to reduce solitary confinement in New York state prisons.
Bebeto Matthews
Associated Press
This Jan. 28, 2016, photo shows a solitary confinement cell at New York City's Riker's Island jail.

Governor Ned Lamont signed a bill on Tuesday that will limit the use of solitary confinement in Connecticut prisons.

The bill prohibits prisoners from being kept in solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days, or more than 30 days total in a 60-day period.

Barbara Fair is the founder of Stop Solitary CT, and began advocating for the bill after her then-teenage son was allegedly tortured with isolation while in prison.

“First we have to treat people better,” Fair said. “We say these are correctional institutions, but all we are doing is causing more harm. People are coming back to our community broken spiritually — mentally their minds are shattered.”

Governor Ned Lamont praised legislators and advocates for their work and spoke about the importance of fair treatment for prisoners.

“This law makes it clear that isolated confinement should only be used in extreme circumstances,” Lamont said. “It also increases transparency and provides greater independent oversight of our correctional facilities. I am committed to ensuring that Connecticut’s correctional facilities operate in a way that not only provides a safe environment for staff, visitors, volunteers, and those who are in custody, but also focuses on lowering recidivism by providing individuals who are in custody with the tools they need to ensure that when they leave a correctional facility, they never come back.”

Fair said that although the legislation is a good start, there is still work to be done.

“One of the major things that I want to get back to which I had to compromise on was also restricting strip-searching because they’re done so often unnecessarily,” Fair said. “They’re very dehumanizing and humiliating for people.”

Fair said this was left out of the bill for fear it would delay its passage.

The bill also creates a Correction Advisement Committee, a panel of nine members that will review solitary confinement cases and hire a Department of Corrections position to handle complaints related to the issue.

The law takes effect on July 1, 2022. The Correction Advisement Committee was created immediately after the bill was signed.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.