2019 New Jersey Assembly Bill A314
On July 11, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed NJ A314, the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act, into law. NJ A314 limits the use of long-term “isolated confinement” and prohibits the use of isolated confinement for certain vulnerable populations in both state prisons and county correctional facilities—including jails, prisons, penitentiaries, and workhouses. Isolated confinement is defined as confinement of a person in a cell or similarly confined living space in accordance to disciplinary, administrative, protective, investigative, medical, or other classification—characterized by severely restricted activity, movement, and social interaction—for 20 hours or more per day in a state facility and 22 hours or more per day in a county correctional facility. The new law also codifies preexisting New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) policies. Under this law, incarcerated people can face isolated confinement if they create a “substantial risk of immediate serious harm” to themselves, other incarcerated people, or staff. The legislation also bars the use of isolated confinement for vulnerable populations—except in rare specified circumstances—such as people younger than 21 or older than 65, those with disabilities, pregnant or postpartum people, and NJDOC must also screen incarcerated people for mental illness and collect data before and during isolated confinement.
The law also limits the length of stay in isolated confinement to 20 consecutive days and a maximum of 30 days during any 60-day period and discourages the direct release of people from isolated confinement to the community—unless necessary for the safety of the person, those who work and live in the facility, and the public. The law takes effect on August 1, 2020.
Keywords: isolated confinement, restrictive housing, pregnant, disabilities, elderly, young adults, youth, New Jersey, LGBTQ, conditions of confinement, mental illness,