Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Human Rights Countdown 2015, Day 4!

On this penultimate day of our Human Rights 2015 Countdown, we feature two popular blog entries in our # 2 spot for the year, both looking at the issue of solitary confinement.  First, in a June 2015 entry titled Death Before Dying, Hope Metcalf provided thoughtful commentary on the U.S.'s continued failure to meet the UN's minimum standards of treatment.  Second, JoAnn Kamuf Ward followed up in September 2015 with a blog titled Mandela's Legacy and Solitary Confinement: From Robben Island to . . . a Prison Near You?, describing the potential for international standards to move the US away from excessive reliance on this practice.  

Though only a few months have passed, there are important updates on this issue.  Both Metcalf and Ward described a growing social movement to reform the prison establishment's overuse of solitary confinement.  In a victory for that movement, in December 2015, the New York Civil Liberties Union reached a settlement with New York State that will provide limitations on the discretionary use of solitary for petty prison offenses and establish more humane conditions for those who are still assigned to solitary confinement.  The NYCLU has promised that it will be monitoring compliance with the settlement terms "like a hawk."  The Mandela Rules,  formally launched by the UN on October 2015, will provide an important global legal context for that monitoring effort.

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