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posted: 3/11/2013 4:00 AM

Durbin correct on solitary confinement

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On Feb. 21, a letter writer scoffed at Sen. Dick Durbin's concern over solitary confinement in our nation's prisons. Dismissing the significance of solitary confinement is misguided. Solitary confinement not only can make inmates more violent, endangering other inmates and prison staff, but it's also three times as expensive as housing inmates in a typical prison, costing taxpayers as much as $90,000 an inmate per year. On top of its inhumanity and staggering costs, solitary confinement also poses a threat to public safety.

Even if you don't feel much sympathy toward our nation's 2.3 million prisoners, it's important to remember that most of them will be released someday. The revolving door that our nation's justice system has turned into serves nobody well -- not those who are incarcerated or the law-abiding citizens who become victims when former inmates are released and quickly reoffend. There's a reason our Constitution prohibits the use of "cruel and unusual punishment." Solitary confinement simply isn't right, for prisoners or for Americans as a whole.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons agrees, which is why it has reduced its population in solitary confinement by 25 percent since Sen. Durbin started calling attention to the practice. The John Howard Association, Illinois only nonpartisan prison watchdog, believes that safe and cost-effective prison reform is a powerful tool to protect public safety. That's why we support Sen. Durbin's effort to take a look at the long-term consequences of their treatment for all and to stick up for the rights of all Americans.

John Maki

Executive director

John Howard Association

Chicago

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