President Obama ordered the Bureau of Prisons to terminate the use of restrictive housing for juvenile prisoners. Obama’s order was announced in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post on Tuesday. Obama also said he planned to divert inmates with serious mental illness to alternative forms of housing and to limit the use of “punitive segregation,” the statement said. The move came after a Justice Department inquiry that began last summer and examined the overuse of solitary confinement in American prisons.
Officials concluded that solitary should still be used for the “most violent and disruptive inmates,” a statement said. “But as a matter of policy, we believe strongly this practice should be used rarely, applied fairly, and subjected to reasonable constraints.” The federal prison system is the largest in the country, with 135 prisons and a population of nearly 200,000 inmates. Few of them are juveniles, though. A Justice Department report published Monday said that as of last December, there were just 71. While solitary confinement is now banned for juveniles, the impact of that policy is small because few juveniles are charged with federal crimes. As of last month, there were 71 juveniles in Bureau of Prisons facilities, And as of last September, only 13 of them had been in solitary confinement.
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