Sen. Gary Winfield sits in the replica of a solitary confinement cell
Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, sits in the replica of a solitary confinement cell for two hours on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2017. Credit: Christine Stuart / CTNewsJunkie

HARTFORD, CT — One of the last pieces of legislation Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed this year was a bill that prohibits the Corrections Department from putting anyone under the age of 18 in solitary confinement.

The legislation, which was proposed by Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, limits the use of solitary confinement and requires the Corrections Department to report on its use of solitary confinement annually. The report must include how many inmates were segregated from the rest of the population and the duration of their separation.

The new law goes into effect January 2018.

“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,” Winfield said.

Winfield, who is the vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee and was instrumental in bringing a replica solitary confinement cell to the state Capitol earlier this year, said there’s no disputing the negative consequences solitary confinement can have on children and other vulnerable inmates.

“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,” he said.

Solitary confinement is the practice of placing a prisoner alone in a cell for 22 to 24 hours a day with little human contact or interaction. According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, prolonged solitary confinement is torture. On any given day, however, around 80,000 people in the United States are being held in solitary confinement.

In Connecticut, housing a prisoner in solitary confinement, according to the National Religious Campaign Against Torture costs an average of twice as much as housing a prisoner in general population. The annual cost of incarcerating one inmate in Connecticut is $50,262. The annual cost of incarcerating one inmate at Northern, a level five facility in Somers, is $100,385.

AFSCME Council 4, the union representing correction officers, ,was opposed to parts of the original legislation because segregation is “an important tool for keeping inmates, the public and staff safe in regards to corrections facilities functioning properly,” Brian Anderson, a lobbyist for Council 4 AFSCME, testified.

A final version of the legislation eliminated some of the objections by being less prescriptive.

It passed both the House and the Senate unanimously.