WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, met with Colette Peters, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), to receive an update on the use of solitary confinement in federal facilities. They also discussed updates at the United States Penitentiary Thomson (USP Thomson).
In February, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report on the use of solitary confinement. The report showed a troubling trajectory for the number of federal prisoners in restrictive housing, which has increased 14.5 percent (+1,436 net) since December 2015. The change was driven by a 29 percent increase (+2,384 net) in Special Housing Unit placements in the same timeframe. Durbin previously introduced the Solitary Confinement Reform Act, legislation that limits solitary confinement to the briefest term and under the least restrictive conditions possible, because the overuse of solitary confinement threatens public safety, strains prison budgets, and violates fundamental human rights.
“For years, I have sought to address the injustices and challenges that impact the daily lives of incarcerated Americans and their families—along with the staff responsible for protecting both the people incarcerated in our federal prisons and the communities surrounding them,” said Durbin. “During today’s meeting, I reiterated my concerns with restricted housing, or solitary confinement, which must be an absolute last resort, limited to the briefest term and under the least restrictive conditions possible. We also discussed ways to continue to improve USP Thomson. My discussion with Director Peters was productive, and I will keep pushing BOP to ensure they operate federal prisons safely, securely, and effectively.”
Peters was sworn in as BOP’s new Director in August 2022, following Durbin’s repeated calls for Attorney General Garland and Deputy Attorney General Monaco to replace former BOP Director Michael Carvajal with a reform-minded leader.
Last year, Durbin held a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Prisons,” where he questioned Director Peters.
Beginning in 2009, Durbin was instrumental in the acquisition and activation of Thomson Prison—converting it from a state correctional facility to a Federal prison.