This week, Obama announced his latest plan for reform in the justice system: a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile offenders.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Obama laid out the frightening reality of solitary confinement and the repercussions of such punishment.
"There are as many as 100,000 people held in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons — including juveniles and people with mental illnesses," Obama wrote. "Research suggests that solitary confinement has the potential to lead to devastating, lasting psychological consequences."
Obama's announcement is just six months removed from his Justice Department initiative to study how the Federal Bureau of Prisons was using solitary confinement. Part of the new policies restrict first-time solitary confinement punishment to 60 days, far shorter than the current maximum of a full year.
The reforms will be relevant to roughly 10,000 federal inmates serving time in solitary confinement, but the hope is that it will set an example for the state prisons who also use the practice. This piece of legislation is just another step in criminal justice reform, which has been a major piece of Obama's presidency.
"How can we subject prisoners to unnecessary solitary confinement, knowing its effects, and then expect them to return to our communities as whole people?" Obama wrote. "It doesn't make us safer. It's an affront to our common humanity."
Thankfully, this news comes amongst a slew of prison reforms that are trying to rebuild the largest, most profitable prison system in the world. Recently, we've seen the cost of prisoners' phone calls plummet, protections for transgender inmates introduced, and even the early release of 6,000 nonviolent criminals.
Cover image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.