SJC puts limits on isolation in state prisons

By Milton Valencia
The Boston Globe
October 25, 2016

The state’s highest court has ordered safeguards against long-term solitary confinement to prison inmates who are placed in segregation for administrative reasons, such as for their own protection, in a ruling that prisoners’ rights advocates hope will reduce unnecessary isolation of prisoners.

The Supreme Judicial Court found that the state Department of Correction must follow court-mandated segregation regulations whenever a prisoner is held in a cell alone for 23 hours a day, with no contact with outsiders, even if the segregation is considered short-term, and even if the department does not call it “segregation.”

Bonita Tenneriello, one of the lawyers who handled the case, said that the decision sets clear guidelines for the segregation of inmates for administrative reasons, which could be because an inmate is considered to be at risk of gang retaliation or could be targeted because of the crimes they committed.

“The bottom line is you can’t hold people in conditions of solitary confinement without giving them the benefit of these regulations,” said Tenneriello, of Prisoners Legal Services, an inmate rights’ advocacy group. “This matters, because what the regulations say is you should only be in solitary if there’s a good reason to put you there.”

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