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WHO WE ARE

The Unlock the Box Campaign is a coalition of organizations and movement leaders who partner with state and local campaigns across the United States working to end the use of solitary confinement for all people.

The national campaign is comprised of a steering committee that includes members from:

WHAT WE DO

MISSION

Unlock the Box supports education and advocacy efforts on the national, state, and local levels to advance the goal of ending solitary confinement in the United States.

GOAL

The goal of the Unlock the Box campaign is to end solitary confinement in all U.S. prisons, jails, detention facilities, and juvenile facilities, bringing the United States into full compliance with the UN’s Mandela Rules within 10 years. We define solitary confinement for adults as confinement for more than 20 hours per day, alone or with a cellmate, without meaningful human contact. We define solitary confinement for youth as involuntary confinement alone in a cell, room, or other area for more than 4 hours.

In pursuit of this goal, we seek to effect policies and practices that:

  • Eliminate indefinite or prolonged isolation in all its forms and for all people;

  • Limit short-term isolation to 15 days or less, and to cases where it is needed to protect the safety of incarcerated persons and corrections staff;

  • Ban isolation entirely for youth aged 21 and under;

  • Ban isolation for people with serious psychiatric and physical disabilities; cognitive or sensory impairment; elders over the age of 55; and pregnant women and new mothers;

  • Prohibit the use of isolation for individuals who have any medical or mental health issues that might be exacerbated by such placement;

  • Prohibit the use of isolation as a form of protective custody for vulnerable groups such as individuals who identify as LGBTQI;

  • Prohibit the use of isolation as punishment;

  • Prohibit the mandatory use of isolation due to crime of conviction;

  • Replace the practice of isolation with humane, safe, and effective alternatives; and

  • Ensure transparency, accountability, and independent oversight in the use of isolation and in conditions of confinement in general.

STRATEGY

To fulfill our mission, we offer resources, funding, and technical assistance to new and established anti-solitary campaigns across the country.  Funding requests to our Jurisdiction-based Fund are currently by invitation only.

The Jurisdiction-based Fund is currently supporting campaigns in: Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Washington.


WHAT WE BELIEVE

 

  • Our prisons are a reflection of our values as a society and a nation, and should uphold human rights and respect the dignity and worth of all people.

  • Any meaningful transformation of our criminal justice system must address what happens inside prison walls. Reformers and abolitionists alike have a stake in opposing solitary and other inhumane conditions of confinement.

  • Solitary confinement is a reflection and a measure of a wider punitive culture within the criminal justice system. Working to end solitary confinement helps challenge this culture, and the incarceration crisis it has created. We support reforms that seek to roll back the culture, policies, and practices that are the underpinnings of mass incarceration.

  • An overwhelming body of evidence shows that solitary confinement causes extreme and sometimes permanent damage to the individuals who endure it, and to the families and communities to which they will return. It is also costly and counterproductive, increasing recidivism while failing to reduce prison violence.

  • People of color are often disproportionately subjected to solitary confinement, over and beyond their disproportionate representation in the general prison population. Ending solitary confinement requires navigation and resolution of these inequities and the racial bias driving them.

  • Humane, effective, and safe alternatives exist for all uses of solitary confinement within all segments of the prison population.

  • Effective campaigns to end solitary confinement must engage all stakeholders, including incarcerated people and their loved ones, advocates and grassroots activists, corrections professionals, legal and health professionals, policymakers, media, and the public.

  • Change on this issue may happen one prison system at a time, and it may not come quickly or easily—but we are approaching a tipping point, and with persistence and resources, it will come. The arc of history bends toward justice, and is on our side.

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WHAT YOU CAN DO

Broad public support is essential to the campaign to end solitary. If you would like to become involved in the anti-solitary movement, here are some ways to get started: