Solitary confinement has become so routine and normalized in America prison systems that it can obscure the issue for the American public and the courts. International human rights standards, however, are perfectly clear: prolonged solitary confinement is torture. Period. The United States must respect these human rights standards. The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed complaints regarding New York’s solitary confinement practices with international human rights oversight bodies, and submitted testimony regarding human rights standards to the United State Senate. Click on the links below to learn more about the NYCLU’s advocacy with international human rights bodies and the U.S. Senate, and to read blog entries and other press about these efforts.


UN Human Rights Experts (Again) Push for Access to U.S. Prisons, Call for Solitary Reform. Solitary Watch. July 24, 2015

Remarks by the President at the NAACP Conference. July 14, 2015

Justice Kennedy Denounces Solitary Confinement. The Atlantic. June 18, 2015

Eight Principles for Reforming Solitary Confinement. The American Prospect. Fall 2015

Time-in-Cell: The Liman-ASCA 2014 National Survey of Administrative Segregation in Prison. September 2015

What Can Reforming Solitary Confinement Teach Us About Reducing Mass Incarceration? Taylor Pendergrass for The Marshall Project. October 13, 2015

Federal Government

Testimony of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Hearing Before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights on Reassessing Solitary Confinement II: The Human Rights, Fiscal, and Public Safety Consequences, February 25, 2014

Testimony of the New York Civil Liberties Union on the Use and Effects of Extreme Isolation in New York Prisons, Hearing Before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights on Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons, July 19, 2012

Human Rights Standards

Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. U.N. General Assembly. August 5, 2011

Mandela Rules (Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners). First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders

Human Rights Mechanisms

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Special Rapporteur on Torture’s Observations Regarding NYS DOCCS, Mar. 2014 (see pages 122-23 and 130-31)
Special Rapporteur Letter to U.S. Government regarding William Blake, Nov. 29, 2013
U.S. Government Response to Special Rapporteur Allegation Letter regarding NYS DOCCS, Aug. 5, 2013
Special Rapporteur Allegation Letter to U.S.G. regarding NYS DOCCS, Mar. 18, 2013
NYCLU letter to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Feb. 5, 2013
BLOG: New York Prisons: Human Rights Crisis in Our Own Backyard
PRESS RELEASE: Human Rights, Mental Health and Faith-Based Organizations ask U.N. to Investigate Solitary Confinement in New York Prisons

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Written Testimony of the New York Civil Liberties Union Regarding the United States’ Use of Solitary Confinement as Practiced in New York State Prisons, Thematic Hearing of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Solitary Confinement in the Americas, March 12, 2013
BLOG: New York Subjects Prisoners to Solitary as a Disciplinary Tool of First Resort
BLOG: International Body Slams U.S. Solitary Confinement Practices
ANNEX TO PRESS RELEASE: Summary of IACHR’s 147th Session