www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/readersrespond/bs-ed-solitary-confinement-20120714,0,6962944.story

baltimoresun.com

Solitary confinement is overused

11:00 AM EDT, July 14, 2012

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Your recent editorial about the use of disciplinary and administrative segregation in Maryland prisons reflects the challenges I have experienced in attempting to secure data about solitary confinement in the state ("Torture by another name," July 8).

As a member of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which is addressing this issue across the nation, our team has found from our work in other states that reducing the population in solitary confinement — or isolation, as it is often euphemistically called — can result in considerable cost savings, less recidivism and a decrease in violent or suicidal behavior.

The practice of isolating prisoners in American jails was started by well-meaning Quakers in the 1800s. They quickly discovered, however, that isolation literally drove prisoners crazy. Quakers have been opposed to the practice ever since.

To his credit, Maryland Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services Gary Maynard recognizes the need to reduce the population of prisoners held in isolation. With his background in sociology and psychology, Secretary Maynard has shown a special interest in seeing the mentally ill treated rather than incarcerated, potentially leaving their conditions ignored or left to worsen.

I agree that we should seek to follow the model of Mississippi, which reduced its prison population in isolation from 3,000 to 500.

Suzanne H. O'Hatnick, Baltimore

The writer is chair of the Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture.