AUGUSTA — A legislative committee is taking up a bill that would end the use of solitary confinement in prisons.

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee heard testimony Wednesday from prisoners, former prisoners, family members and advocates about the impact of long-term isolation on mental health. Some inmates were driven to major psychological problems and suicide attempts, they said.

“Solitary Confinement is a barbaric practice that does nothing to restore those who have been incarcerated. In fact, it makes our state LESS safe by increasing the likelihood of recidivism,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Grayson Lookner, D-Portland, said in a tweet.

Corrections Commissioner Randall Liberty, who opposed the proposal, insisted Maine is now a national leader in reducing the amount of time prisoners serve in isolation.

“This bill is an answer to a problem that doesn’t exist in the state of Maine,” said Liberty, who agreed that prolonged isolation causes psychological stress and doesn’t support recovery.

Seven inmates are currently segregated in a special unit at the Maine State Prison, but that’s not the same as solitary confinement and the inmates have TVs and tablets, Liberty said. Many of the problems cited in the testimony happened years ago, he added.

The bill represents a renewed effort after a similar bill was held over from the last legislative session.

It provides a definition of “solitary confinement” to isolation in a cell for more than 20 hours a day.

It also sets alternatives for prisoners who are too dangerous or disruptive to live in the general population, including therapeutic units aimed at addressing their behavioral issues.

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