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CAIR Submits Testimony Supporting Bill in Maryland General Assembly to Impose Reasonable Restrictions on Use of Solitary Confinement

(BALTIMORE, MD, 3/20/18) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today announced that it has submitted testimony in support of HB 786 – Correctional Services – Restrictive Housing – Limitations, that has been introduced and heard this week in the Maryland General Assembly.

The bill, sponsored by Maryland State Delegate Jazz Lewis, establishes reasonable limitations on the use of solitary confinement at correctional facilities in Maryland. These include:

 

  • restricting to a maximum of 15 consecutive days, or a total of 90 days, that an inmate may be placed in restrictive housing in any one year period, and
  • prohibiting certain vulnerable inmates from placement in solitary confinement under certain circumstances.

CAIR’s testimony reads in part:

“For many years, human rights advocates and civil rights organizations have called for an end to the practice of solitary confinement in federal and state prison systems. It is widely viewed as a form of extreme punishment that leads to inmates being held from 22-24 hours in isolated confinement in a small cell with severe sensory deprivation.

“The United Nations has condemned this practice as a ”˜degrading, inhumane form of abuse that amounts to little more than torture by another name,’ while many advocates in the United States agree that it is unconstitutional and violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual forms of punishment.

“The State of Maryland resorts to solitary confinement – known as ”˜restrictive housing’ – for inmates at twice the national average. In 2016, according to the Baltimore Sun, nearly 70 percent of the state prison population in Maryland spent an average of nearly two months in isolated confinement. Those who appear to be most at risk are the mentally ill whose condition is exacerbated by these cruel and inhumane conditions.

“The average cost of housing a prisoner in isolation in a Maryland correctional facility is three times greater than housing in the general population. CAIR believes that reform on this issue is imperative in our state because it:

 

  • Is a cruel, unconstitutional, and inhumane form of punishment that can pose a risk to public and personal safety.
  • Adversely impacts inmates’ mental health and leads to greater risk of suicide
  • Is counterproductive, leading to high rates of recidivism, and
  • Is a financial burden and comes at an exorbitant cost to taxpayers

“CAIR supports HB 786 because we have a moral responsibility to advocate for humane, constitutional policies regarding solitary confinement, mass incarceration and reforming our criminal justice system,” said CAIR’s Maryland representative Zainab Chaudry, who also serves on the Advisory Board of the Interfaith Action for Human Rights. “It is impossible to subject inmates to unnecessary restrictive housing, knowing its harmful effects, and then expect them to return to society without irreparable damage. Such punishment, as it stands, is inhumane, unconstitutional, unconscionable, costly, and fails to keep our state safe.”    SEE: Time to end solitary confinement in Maryland

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/readersrespond/bs-ed-rr-solitary-letter-20171120-story.html CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

La misión de CAIR es mejorar la comprensión del Islam, proteger las libertades civiles, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.

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CONTACT: CAIR’s Maryland representative Zainab Chaudry, 410-971-6062zchaudry@cair.com

 

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