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State Senator

Gary Winfield

Representing New Haven & West Haven

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Sen. Winfield Statement on Governor’s Signing of Isolated Confinement Bill

Photo of Senator Winfield

Senator Gary Winfield inside a replica solitary confinement cell at the State Capitol February 21, 2017.

State Senator Gary Winfield (D-New Haven) released the following statement today after Governor Malloy signed a bill on July 11 that prohibits the Department of Correction (DOC) from holding anyone under 18 in isolated confinement, along with making other significant reforms to isolated confinement practices in Connecticut.

“Although we have a long way to go in the fight for criminal justice reform in Connecticut, this bill moves the state toward more humane treatment of our incarcerated citizens. The negative consequences of solitary confinement on children and other vulnerable inmates are well documented and can lead to a range of psychological damages. This bill begins the work of Connecticut dealing with the issues of populations like incarcerated children and inmates with disabilities or with serious mental illness in solitary confinement. It also increases the transparency of isolated confinement practices and provides critical training initiatives for correctional staff.

“I want to thank everyone who came forward to support this bill, including New Haven resident Keishar Tucker who testified in front of the Judiciary Committee about his experience being repeatedly kept in solitary confinement while in Connecticut correctional facilities. He suffered from anxiety, depression and hallucinations due to the chronic isolation. Keishar, like many others who testified, raised his voice in an effort to make sure no one else goes through the psychological torture endured in solitary confinement.”

HB 7302 (PA 17-239) requires the DOC commissioner, by January 1, 2019, to study and submit a report to the Judiciary Committee regarding the use and oversight of all forms and phases of housing for inmates on restrictive housing status.

The bill additionally requires DOC to:

1. Submit specified information on isolated confinement, at least annually, to the Office of Policy and Management’s Justice Policy & Planning Division;

2. Publish the formula for calculating an inmate’s mental health score and a description of any housing used at its correctional facilities for inmates on restrictive housing status on its website, and;

3. Provide training and promote wellness measures for DOC employees who interact with inmates, within available appropriations.

The law will become effective January 1, 2018. It does not apply to inmates on high security status because they were convicted of a capital felony or murder with special circumstances.

Earlier this year, Sen. Winfield, vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was instrumental in bringing the “Inside the Box” exhibit, a replica solitary confinement cell, to the South Lobby of the State Capitol during the 2017 legislative session. To further to raise awareness about the issue, Sen. Winfield locked himself “inside the box” for a total of 2 hours and 23 minutes.

Sen. Winfield urged his colleagues in the General Assembly to support solitary confinement reform and to visit the replica cell while it was on display in Hartford.

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