On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, Maryland Chapter, we urge your support for this bill, which prevents the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services from placing an inmate in restrictive housing for more than 15 consecutive days or a total of 20 days in a 60 day period. With specified exceptions and establishing protections for inmates who are placed in restrictive housing. Data shows that the percentage of prisoners held in solitary confinement in Maryland’s corrections system is nearly twice that as the national percentage and that the average length of stay is well over 100 days. Solitary confinement is expensive and harmful to an individual’s physical and mental health. The inherent restriction in meaningful social interaction and environmental stimulation and the lack of control adversely impact the health and welfare of all who are held in solitary confinement. The World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations, and other international bodies have recognized that solitary confinement is harmful to health. The WHO notes that effects can include gastrointestinal and genitourinary problems, diaphoresis, insomnia, deterioration of eyesight, profound fatigue, heart palpitations, migraines, back andjoint pains, weight loss, diarrhea, and aggravation of preexisting medical problems. Even those without a prior history of mental illness may experience a deterioration in mental health, experiencing anxiety, depression, anger, diminished impulse control, paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, cognitive disturbances, obsessive thoughts, paranoia, hypersensitivity to stimuli, posttraumatic stress disorder, self-harm, suicide, and/or psychosis. Some of these effects may persist after release from solitary confinement. Moreover, the very nature of prolonged social isolation is antithetical to goals of rehabilitation and social integration.
As social workers, we feel that it is not ethically defensible for us as health care professionals to acquiesce silently to conditions of confinement that inflict mental and physical harm. We are ethically obligated, not only to treat segregated inmates with mental illness, but also to strive to change harmful segregation policies and practices. Passage of House Bill 1001 will help to ensure we are not doing further damage to these
incarcerated individuals. Please support this bill