Barack Obama shared the heart-wrenching story of an African-American man who took his own life after spending nearly two years in solitary confinement – to coincide with his announcement that the practice will be banned as punishment for juvenile offenders.
The US President posted to Facebook the story of Kalief Browder from the Bronx. He was just 16 when he was sent to Rikers Island to await trial after being accused of stealing a rucksack.
While awaiting trial, he was beaten up by prison guards and other inmates and spent nearly two years in solitary confinement.
Kaleif was released in 2013 and took his own life in 2015 aged just 22, having never faced trial.
As he announced the ban on Monday, a piece written by Obama was published in the Washington Post.
“Too often, solitary confinement is overused on people like Kalief,” he said.
“As many as 100,000 people in America are being held in solitary confinement – including juveniles and people with mental illnesses. Research shows it can potentially lead to devastating psychological consequences. The overuse of this tactic doesn’t make us safer – it’s an affront to our common humanity.”
As well as banning the use of solitary confinement for juveniles and low-level offences, Obama said he asked the Department of Justice to review the “overuse” of solitary confinement.
He went on: “Today, it’s increasingly overused on people such as Kalief, with heartbreaking results – which is why my administration is taking steps to address this problem.
“The United States is a nation of second chances, but the experience of solitary confinement too often undercuts that second chance. Those who do make it out often have trouble holding down jobs, reuniting with family and becoming productive members of society. Imagine having served your time and then being unable to hand change over to a customer or look your wife in the eye or hug your children.”