News Release

Solitary Confinement: Human, Economic and Public Safety Costs

Washington, DC (June 19, 2012) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers believes that safe and humane prisons must be the highest priority of any correctional system. NACDL welcomed the long-overdue hearing on solitary confinement held today before the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. A letter sent yesterday from NACDL President Lisa Wayne to Chairman Dick Durbin raised several points which contravene the prevailing belief that solitary segregation is necessary for maintaining prison discipline and good order:

  • Solitary confinement erodes and endangers the psychological health of inmates, causing among other things, paranoia, hallucinations, loss of self-control, aggression, and rage.
  • Solitary confinement results in greater prison violence – paradoxically, long-term segregation has been shown to increase prisoner-on-prisoner and prisoner-on-staff assaults.
  • Prolonged solitary confinement undermines inmate socialization required for successful reentry into society. 

Sen. John McCain, who spent more than two years in solitary confinement as a prisoner of war, has said, “It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance effectively than any other form of mistreatment.” When prolonged, such confinement constitutes torture. NACDL hopes Congress will recognize that, and will act to limit the use of solitary confinement in state, local and federal detention facilities.

A copy of President Wayne’s letter to Sen. Durbin is available on NACDL’s Web site.

Click here to view or download the letter. 

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Jack King, Director of Public Affairs & Communications, (202) 465-7628 or

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.