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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Letter from 64 Yale Faculty Urges CT Governor to Sign Bill Restricting Solitary

On June 16, 2021, 64 Yale University faculty sent a letter to Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont urging him to sign Senate Bill 1059 into law. The legislation would restrict the use of solitary confinement in Connecticut and create independent oversight over the state’s Department of Correction (DOC).

“Connecticut routinely resorts to extreme isolation as well as the barbaric practice of punitively chaining people in locked cells for hours and even days on end,” the Yale faculty wrote, citing the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic’s investigation into conditions in the DOC. The faculty members pointed to the February 2020 statement from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, who condemned Connecticut’s practices as “a State-sanctioned policy aimed at purposefully inflicting severe pain or suffering” that “may well amount to torture.”

The letter also highlighted support for S.B. 1059 from experts closer to home. Numerous medical, legal, correctional, and policy experts urged the passage of S.B. 1059 at the bill’s public hearing. “The unequivocal consensus,” the letter indicated, “was that solitary confinement is extraordinarily cruel and counterproductive and must be restricted to ensure basic human rights.” The letter further noted that isolation and other abuses within prison are a matter of racial justice; the state’s own data shows that nearly 90% of individuals held in long-term isolation are people of color.

The 64 faculty signatories hail from across Yale University, with representation from Yale Law School, Yale School of Management, Yale School of Public Health, Yale School of Medicine, Yale College, Yale Divinity School, and Yale School of the Environment.

Hope Metcalf, the letter’s author and a supervising attorney in the Lowenstein Clinic, said that the new legislation comes at a critical moment following the closure of the state supermax prison Northern CI. “We are beginning to hear reports that the same grave violations that characterized Northern are now occurring in other facilities,” said Metcalf. “We’re at a key juncture. S.B. 1059 will help ensure the safety of everyone – incarcerated people, correctional staff, and the public. We trust that the Governor will seize this opportunity to make real change, rather than merely shifting the brutal treatment elsewhere.”

Gov. Lamont has until June 24, 2021, to sign S.B. 1059.