Solitary confinement now restricted in NJ prisons

David Madden
July 12, 2019 - 1:17 pm
Prison cell

NEWARK, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — New Jersey is changing the rules for prison inmates to be held in solitary confinement.

The Corrections Department made changes under an order from Gov. Phil Murphy, who has now approved a bill that makes those rules the law of the land.

"It makes New Jersey a leader in smart, humane correctional policy and really shows the power of survivors who stand up and say 'This is what I suffered, and the state has to do better and ensure no one suffers it again,'" New Jersey ACLU staff attorney Tess Borden told KYW Newsradio.

Among the new regulations, restricting time in solitary to no more than 20 days in a row or 30 in a two-month period, with an almost total prohibition for inmates under 21 or over 65, disabled, pregnant or LGBTQ.   

The ACLU and other organizations have been fighting for these changes for more than a decade. In fact, a similar bill passed the legislature about three years ago, only to be vetoed by then Gov. Chris Christie.

Borden says she would like solitary to go away for good, but this is a start.

"A prison and a jail can be run safely without resorting to solitary confinement," she added. "Now, that doesn't mean that everyone has to be in general population. There are still ways of restricting housing assignments. There are still ways of keeping certain prisoners separate from others, if necessary, short of solitary confinement."

And she says New Jersey's law could well serve as a model for other states to follow.