Is 10 years in Massachusetts solitary confinement torture?

October 18, 2017
The Boston Globe
By Joshua Miller

Massachusetts legislators attempting a sweeping overhaul of the criminal justice system are grappling with one of the toughest questions in corrections: How long is too long for a prisoner — even one who has harmed a guard or a fellow inmate — to be punished with solitary confinement?

Under current law, prisoners at any state facility can be sentenced by corrections officials to up to 10 years in the state’s toughest solitary, the Departmental Disciplinary Unit in the Walpole prison, where they are housed in a 12-foot-by-7-foot cell and are entitled to five hours a week of outdoor recreation.

Advocates such as Leslie Walker of Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts say that’s a “great, hopeful step forward.” But the proposed changes, she said, don’t go nearly far enough to help those in solitary become well, or to release those who are no longer a threat to prison staff and other inmates. She says Massachusetts has fallen far behind other states on the issue.

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