If you turn on any cable new outlet, or tune into any debate, you’ll hear the words “criminal justice reform.” Lately it has been centered on the police portion of the system, but the White House is taking a look at the way prisoners are treated.

You might be thinking, “Who cares? They’re prisoners, they screwed up and they deserve the full fury of the criminal justice system”

Maybe that’s not exactly what you’re thinking, but your drunk opinionated uncle was probably spouting out something like that over the Thanksgiving turkey.

Let’s keep something in mind, in 2013 there were over 2 million adults incarcerated in federal and state prisons, along with local county jails. 2 million! In Michigan alone we’re somewhere around 40,000 people (By the way, the Detroit News reports it costs somewhere around $2 billion per year to run Michigan’s prison system). My point in spouting out numbers is to show there is a serious need for reform in prisons, especially considering much of the population in lock up is due to a drug related crime. I’m not claiming we’re locking up angels, but think about a guy who is doing time for a nonviolent drug offense. Keep this guy in mind as you read the words below about what solitary confinement can do to a person.

We’ll start with the latest move from Washington D.C. where President Obama says he will be banning the use of solitary confinement for some prisoners. The report, from the AP via WOOD-TV 8, shows this will affect low-level offending juveniles in federal prisons, roughly 10,000.

Now on to the why. In simple terms, solitary screws people up. Inmates who find themselves locked in their cells for 23 hours a day are more likely to commit suicide. Those who are mentally ill could find their illness worsens, or new mental illnesses could be triggered. Most inmates will eventually be released from prison, think about the guy locked up for a nonviolent drug offense coming out worse compared to when he went in. Rehabilitation is key for a release that’s safe to the public, this is yet another step to amplify rehab.

Since President Obama has no say over state prisons, this will only be implemented at the federal level with the hope that states start to follow. In Michigan we have prisons that are experimenting with what’s called “Incentives in Segregation.” It’s a program that offers solitary inmates a way out. Typically inmates don’t know when they’ll be put back in general population, but under this program they work through six phases to earn their way. An example of one of the phases would be the inmate writing essays about why they are in segregation.

Yes, some of these inmates did horrible things, but we are the United States and one of the things that makes us different from third world countries is how we treat our people, free or locked up.