Stop Solitary Confinement

Stop Solitary Confinement

As detailed in the lawsuit filed by advocates against the Allegheny County Jail in October 2020, people inside the ACJ are routinely subjected to long stretches in solitary confinement as, essentially, punishment for having a mental illness.

Our ballot initiative will virtually end this barbaric practice, currently deployed by jail authorities in lieu of providing actual mental healthcare.

One chilling example:

“Plaintiff…is currently incarcerated at ACJ and has been since February 2015. He suffers from psychiatric disabilities, including bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Mr. Byrd has been repeatedly issued misconducts and kept in solitary confinement for seeking mental health or medical care, and he has been repeatedly assaulted with a taser, sprayed with OC spray, and placed in the restraint chair. He has been placed in the restraint chair approximately 20 times or more, including one instance of being strapped to the chair for 28 hours. These conditions have caused his mental health to deteriorate, and led to a series of selfharm attempts.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does this matter?

  • Solitary confinement is torture, according to the United Nations.
  • Solitary confinement has been shown to increase recidivism rates — it creates more crime and makes the public less safe.
  • Solitary confinement, along with the general lack of mental healthcare, is partially responsible for the Allegheny County Jail’s (ACJ’s) suicide rate – one of the highest in the nation.
  • Solitary confinement is used in lieu of mental healthcare. Restricting it will force the jail to address its shameful lack of mental healthcare infrastructure.

Why should I care?

  • Solitary confinement hurts the general public, not just inmates
  • Most people in jail are facing charges of nonviolent offenses. Solitary sharply increases the odds that someone will commit a violent crime

Who is behind this?

  • This is being led by the Alliance for Police Accountability – a grassroots organization in Allegheny County working to reconstruct policing and the justice system.
  • It has been endorsed by 25+ organizations including ACLU, PA United, Women & Girls Foundation, New Voices, Black Lives Matter SWPA, and many more!

Don’t they deserve it? They’re in there for a reason.

  • These are people in the county jail who have not been convicted of any crime
  • Many are nonviolent offenders

I hear the ACJ “doesn’t do solitary.”

  • This is false. The recent lawsuit against the county jail covers this in great detail.
  • ACJ has one of the highest suicide rates of any jail in the nation. Instead of treatment, Defendants rely primarily and unconstitutionally on force and solitary confinement, greatly exacerbating already existing mental health problems and causing significant suffering and harm.
  • You can read a long string of testimonials of inmates who have experienced solitary by clicking here.

People get put in solitary for a reason – they’re acting out and dangerous to others, right?

  • People are put solitary for talking back to guards, having food they aren’t supposed to have, and any number of minor infractions
  • Even someone who poses a danger to other inmates can be safely given time outside of their cell. No one needs to be isolated for 23 hours a day in a cell.

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