There are an estimated 80,000 Americans in U.S. prisons and jails who are housed in solitary confinement on any given day. In recent years, there has been an increase in the use of solitary confinement for federal, state, and local prisoners and detainees. Prisoners in solitary confinement spend 23 hours a day locked down in isolation. The practice is used often for punishment and in the name of protecting prisoners.
On Tuesday, June 19, the U.S. Senate's Assistant Majority Leader, Senator Dick Durbin (Democrat-Illinois), held the first Congressional hearing ever to be held on solitary confinement. The hearing highlighted a horrific juvenile case and featured live testimony from both a former prisoner who endured the conditions and corrections officials. Sen. Durbin and his committee sought to examine the psychological and psychiatric impact on prisoners held in solitary confinement, the expense in running solitary units, the human rights issues involved, and state reforms which offer successful alternatives to the use of solitary.