Margo Schlanger & Amy Fettig

Margo Schlanger is the Henry M. Butzel Professor of Law at the University of Michigan. She served as a member of the Vera Institute’s Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons and as the reporter for the ABA’s Criminal Justice Standards on the Treatment of Prisoners.

Amy Fettig is senior staff counsel for the ACLU’s National Prison Project and directs the ACLU’s Stop Solitary campaign, which seeks to end the practice of long-term isolation in our nation’s prisons, jails, and juvenile detention centers.

 

Recent Articles

Class-Action Suit Brings Sweeping Changes to Solitary Confinement in New York

Though there's still much work to be done, the settlement marks a critical step for prison reform. 

AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File
A federal class-action suit settled last week in New York State will substantially improve conditions for the state’s unusually high population of prisoners in solitary confinement. It can serve as a model for corrections reform around the country. Litigated by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the suit challenged New York’s solitary confinement practices, arguing that they constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment. The court settlement now goes to federal district judge Shira Scheindlin for her sign-off. If Judge Scheindlin approves the settlement and the state abides by it, the implications will be sweeping for the 4,000 people New York confines 23 hours per day in isolated concrete cells the size of a small parking space. Though New York has substantially reduced its prison population over the last 15 years, the state uses these solitary “special housing units” for close to 8 percent of those...

Eight Principles for Reforming Solitary Confinement

How we can reduce, make more humane, and ultimately eliminate a practice that, in Justice Kennedy's words, drives prisoners "to the edge of madness"

(Photo: AP/Ted S. Warren)
This article appears in the Fall 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . After a half-century of steep increases in imprisonment, a bipartisan consensus is finally emerging that the United States keeps too many people locked up. The current incarceration rate is four times what it was in this country in 1970 and five to ten times higher than rates today in Western Europe and other developed democracies. The cost to the American public is enormous—over $85 billion a year. In this one area, the Koch brothers and Grover Norquist agree with a broad swath of religious leaders, civil rights and civil liberties advocates, and liberal politicians. All criticize our current criminal justice policies as inhumane, ineffective, and unduly costly. As we move away from the harshly punitive policies of recent decades, our aim shouldn’t only be cutting the rate of incarceration. We also need to ameliorate the conditions of confinement—and in fact, we’ve...