January 28, 2016

Response to Article on Rethinking Solitary Confinement

The Washington Post published a letter on Jan. 28, 2016, from APA President Susan H. McDaniel, PhD, in response to its Jan. 26, 2016, opinion article, "Why we must rethink solitary confinement," by President Barack Obama.

Regarding President Obama's Jan. 26 op-ed, "Rethinking Solitary Confinement":

We applaud President Obama for banning the practice of holding juveniles in solitary confinement in federal prisons. Research demonstrates that adolescents are still developing in neurological, cognitive and emotional domains. As a result, solitary confinement can have especially devastating consequences for them. It is associated with increased risk of self-mutilation, suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, paranoia and aggression.

Because of the significant negative effects of solitary confinement on psychological development, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child has stated that juvenile solitary confinement should be considered cruel and unusual treatment. We at the American Psychological Association look forward to the implementation of the Justice Department’s recommendations and call on Congress to ensure that it fulfills the promise of its bipartisan efforts to reform the federal criminal-justice system. We also call on states to follow suit if they have not already.

Susan H. McDaniel, Washington

The writer is president of the American Psychological Association.