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Amnesty International USA has joined with local groups including Uptown People’s Law Center and Black and Pink in calling for the Illinois legislature to pass the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act before the end of the legislative session.

The bill will provide much-needed reform to the practice of isolating prisoners from the general population by clarifying that prisoners should be isolated only when necessary, placing limits on the amount of time prisoners are held in isolation, and requiring medical and mental health examinations within 24 hours of being confined.

“Forcing people to live in prolonged solitary confinement – in a cage for up to 24 hours a day for months and even years at a time with minimal human contact — can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” said Jasmine Heiss, senior campaigner with Amnesty International USA. “There is national momentum toward wholesale reform of solitary confinement. We are proud to stand behind the people of Illinois and survivors of solitary who are urging their elected leaders to seize the moment before them and end a shameful legacy by passing this bill.”

The bill is awaiting a vote by both the state House and Senate. The legislature has until the session ends at the end of May to take action. The Illinois legislature previously considered, but failed to pass, a bill that would have placed limits on the use of solitary confinement. A second opportunity should not be allowed to pass by.

Prisoners in solitary confinement and extreme isolation are held for 22-24 hours a day in small, often windowless rooms and deprived of meaningful social interaction and privileges like physical activity and educational opportunities.

In addition to limiting isolation to extreme circumstances and mandating medical exams, the Confinement Restriction Act would limit confinement to a maximum of five days in a 150 day period, prohibit solitary for those under 21 and over 55, and require an initial hearing 72 hours after placement with reviews every two days thereafter.