“Solitary confinement is a form of punishment that is cruel and psychologically damaging,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren fled the Capitol on Jan. 6 from a mob she later called domestic terrorists. Now she and another Senate Democratic leader are standing up for their attackers’ rights as criminal defendants.
Most of the 300-plus people charged with participating in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot have been released while they await trial, but dozens of those deemed to be dangerous, flight risks or at high risk of obstructing justice were ordered held without bond. D.C. jail officials later determined that all Capitol detainees would be placed in so-called restrictive housing — a move billed as necessary to keep the defendants safe, as well as guards and other inmates. But that means 23-hour-a-day isolation for the accused, even before their trials begin.
And such treatment doesn’t sit well with Warren or Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), two of the chamber’s fiercest critics of solitary confinement.
“Solitary confinement is a form of punishment that is cruel and psychologically damaging,” Warren said in an interview. “And we’re talking about people who haven’t been convicted of anything yet.”
The Massachusetts Democrat, a member of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s leadership team, said that while some limited uses of solitary confinement are justified, she’s worried that law enforcement officials are deploying it to “punish” the Jan. 6 defendants or to “break them so that they will cooperate.”
Her sentiments are shared by Durbin, who also chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and expressed surprise that all of the detained Jan. 6 defendants were being kept in so-called “restrictive housing.” While their defense of accused rioters’ rights as criminal defendants is unlikely to change the Justice Department’s handling of those cases, it’s a notable case of prominent progressives using their political clout to amplify their criminal justice reform calls even on behalf of Donald Trump supporters who besieged the entire legislative branch in January.
Durbin, who has long sought to eradicate solitary confinement, told POLITICO that such conditions should be a “rare exception,” for accused insurrectionists or any other prisoners.