President Barack Obama on Monday ordered the U.S. federal prison system to ban solitary confinement for juvenile offenders, the White House said in a statement.
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.
“These steps will affect some 10,000 federal prisoners held in solitary confinement — and hopefully serve as a model for state and local corrections systems,” Obama wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post published Monday evening. “And I will direct all relevant federal agencies to review these principles and report back to me with a plan to address their use of solitary confinement.”
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.