FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 22, 2013
CONTACT: Samantha Friedman, Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications
Office: (202) 265-3000 or cell: (202) 215-9260 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON – A national interfaith anti-torture group today sent a letter to Montana House Judiciary Committee Chairman Krayton Kerns and other members of the committee, in support of a bill that would restrict the use of long-term solitary confinement in Montana state prison facilities. On behalf of its more than 300 diverse faith-based organizational members across the United States, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture issued its support for the bill’s passage.
“The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, whose members represent all faith traditions, care deeply about eliminating prolonged solitary confinement. Research consistently demonstrates that the psychological effects, particularly among children and people with mental illness, are devastating. We strongly support the passage of House Bill 536, particularly its provisions to end the use of solitary confinement of youth under 18, inmates with serious mental illness, and other prisoners needing special consideration, as well as its support for limiting long-term solitary confinement for all inmates,” said Laura Markle Downton, director of U.S. prisons policy and program for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
“The bill also includes a critical public safety measure by limiting the use of solitary confinement for prisoners who are within one year of their release. As people of faith, we recognize that rehabilitation must include preparation for successful re-entry following incarceration. Because of the devastating psychological and social impacts of prolonged solitary confinement, re-entry is significantly undermined by an inmate’s immediate release from solitary confinement into the community.”
NRCAT’s support of the bill comes in advance of a hearing scheduled for today, Friday, February 22, convened by the House Judiciary Committee, which will include discussion of House Bill 536, known as the “Montana Solitary Confinement Act.” The hearing will be live-streamed online at http://leg.mt.gov/css/Video-and-Audio/live.asp?strView_id=84. A vote on the bill is expected as early as Monday, February 25.
“Prolonged solitary confinement desecrates a person’s inherent dignity, denies the essential human need for community, and impedes genuine rehabilitation,” said Rev. Richard Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. “The damage of solitary confinement upon the most vulnerable including juveniles and the mentally ill is a violation of human dignity and is of grave concern to the faith community. House Bill 536 presents Montana with a critical opportunity to lead the way nationally in increasing access to rehabilitation and reducing harm.”
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture advocates for limiting the use of solitary confinement in U.S. federal and state prisons. More information on NRCAT’s work in the field of solitary confinement is available at nrcat.org, as is the organization’s short documentary film on solitary confinement. In 2010, NRCAT partnered with a diverse coalition of organizations in Maine to push for the successful passage of a resolve by the state legislature requiring the Department of Corrections to review its solitary confinement policies and procedures. As a result of the review and its recommendations, the solitary confinement population in Maine has been reduced by more than 70 percent. Momentum to halt the use of prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons continues to build nationally, with the first-ever Congressional hearing on the use of prolonged solitary confinement convened last June by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Following the hearing, in February of this year, the Federal Bureau of Prisons agreed to the first-ever independent and comprehensive assessment of its use of prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. federal prisons.
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is a membership organization committed to ending U.S.-sponsored torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Since its formation in January 2006, more than 320 religious organizations have joined NRCAT, including representatives from the Catholic, evangelical Christian, mainline Protestant, Unitarian Universalist, Quaker, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, Buddhist, and Sikh communities. Members include national denominations and faith groups, regional organizations and local congregations.