Prisons across the country have placed prisoners on lockdown — they’re kept in their cells mostly around-the-clock — as a way to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Now prison reformers are worried that the response has increased the use of a practice they’ve long fought: solitary confinement.
“We’re starting to see an alarming trend in light of COVID-19,” says Jessica Sandoval of Unlock the Box, a coalition of groups fighting solitary confinement, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
That trend is outlined in the coalition’s new report, Solitary Confinement Is Never the Answer.
Before the coronavirus, according to the report, there were 60,000 people in solitary confinement. Now, in response to the pandemic, 300,000 state and federal prisoners have been confined to their cells. They’ve been placed in solitary confinement or in lockdown.