Our Voices

Solitary Confinement: VP Anthony Enriquez on Alarming Trends, Misconceptions, and Why the Practice Should be Banned

In a brief video, Anthony Enriquez, Vice President of U.S. Advocacy and Litigation, urges an end to solitary confinement in United States prisons and detention centers.

The United States locks up over 122,000 people in solitary on any given day, at odds with international legal guidance like the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (also known as the “Nelson Mandela Rules”), which call for a permanent ban on solitary confinement in most cases. Among the victims of solitary confinement in the United States are vulnerable populations such as juveniles, the elderly, and those with mental or physical illnesses.

While many justify solitary confinement as necessary for prison safety, Enriquez points out that studies show it actually “makes prisons less safe by inflicting psychological torture that can lead to increased aggression.”

Additionally, solitary confinement can be both psychologically and physically devastating, resulting in strokes, heart attacks, psychosis, and suicidal thoughts. Alarmed by the increasing use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and immigration detention centers, the United Nations Human Rights Committee warned the U.S. in a 2023 treaty review that “its solitary confinement practices violated international law” and recommended an “immediate ban on solitary confinement for juveniles and people with mental disabilities.”

Responding to increasing pressure from the campaign to end this torture, Congress introduced the End Solitary Confinement Act in 2023, which would ban solitary confinement in federal prisons, jails, and detention centers and would mandate oversight in federal detention settings.

Click here for more information about Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ solitary confinement work.