Human Rights Organizations Urge United Nations to Review Abusive Solitary Confinement Practices in California, New York, Louisiana, and Minnesota

Washington, D.C., February 28, 2023 – Last week, a group of human rights organizations including Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the California Mandela Campaign, Atlas of Blackness, Unlock the Box Campaign, and the NY #HALTsolitary campaign, filed a joint submission urging the United Nations to review abusive solitary confinement practices against Black people in the United States. The submission comes ahead of the UN’s inaugural trip to the U.S. to review issues related to racial justice and equality in the context of law enforcement.

The submission outlines the mental health ramifications of solitary confinement and highlights specific examples in California, New York, Louisiana, and Minnesota, from Louisiana’s widespread abuse of solitary confinement in immigrant detention to Minnesota’s inhumane infliction of solitary confinement on youth in foster care.

“Solitary confinement is mentally, emotionally, and physically devastating. More than a third of those held in solitary confinement become psychotic or suicidal within the first 15 days,” said Delia Addo-Yobo, staff attorney for RFK Human Rights U.S. Advocacy and Litigation program. “International human rights law recognizes this as torture, yet the use of solitary is on the rise in the United States. This trend is particularly traumatic for Black people, who are disproportionately harmed by U.S. carceral systems.”

The groups submitted their report to the UN’s International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in the context of Law Enforcement (EMLER), an independent review mechanism created in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. From April 24 – May 5, UN delegates from the Expert Mechanism will travel to the United States for an inaugural visit with government officials, civil society organizations, and victims to learn more about human rights violations by law enforcement and the criminal justice system against Africans and people of African descent. Following the visit, the Expert Mechanism will present a mission report with its findings and recommendations.

“Our country’s increasing and unchecked use of solitary confinement is an affront to the dignity and wellbeing of incarcerated individuals,” said Anthony Enriquez, Vice President of U.S. Advocacy and Litigation at RFKHR. “We ask the United Nations to help us change that narrative by supporting federal and state bans that limit solitary confinement and advocating for legislation that mandates public data reporting for prisons, jails, youth treatment centers, and immigration detention centers.”


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Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, RFK Human Rights advocates for key human rights issues, championing change makers and pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice.