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Solitary confinement in Oregon prisons challenged

Mail Tribune file photo

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A new legal challenge seeks to curtail the use of solitary confinement as discipline in Oregon prisons.

The Oregon Justice Resource Center argues the practice is cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The center asked the state appeals court Wednesday for a temporary restraining order halting the Oregon Department of Corrections from sending inmates to solitary confinement for over 15 days while justices consider the motion, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

“Disciplinary solitary confinement is not only harmful to people’s mental and physical health, it is not even effective in achieving the goals that (Oregon Department of Corrections) has for it,” Ben Haile, a senior lawyer for the Oregon Justice Resource Center, said.

People in Oregon prison solitary confinement generally spend an average of 23 hours a day in their cells with 40-minute breaks five days a week for exercise and showering, according to the Oregon Justice Resource Center, a Portland-based nonprofit focused on civil rights and legal representation issues.

The motion doesn't challenge the use of solitary confinement for non-disciplinary purposes such as a segregation order made for safety reasons.

A spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the newspaper.

Washington state abolished disciplinary solitary confinement in September, while Idaho and California generally limit solitary confinement to 10 or 15 days, according to the legal filing. Nevada allows isolation punishments of up to a year.