Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has vetoed legislation that would have sharply cut back on solitary confinement but issued an executive order limiting the practice in state prisons.
“The bill was just not good for public safety,” said Lamont spokesman Max Reiss. He called the executive order “an unbelievably progressive approach to isolated confinement,” Connecticut Public Radio reported June 30.
The bill was strongly supported by former NBA player and UConn alumnus Caron Butler, The Associated Press reported June 7.
The bill would have required that all incarcerated in the state be allowed a minimum of 6.5 hours out of the cell and would have limited the use of certain restraints.
Opponents of the bill said that it would take away tools guards need to aid them in maintaining discipline in prisons.
“Being in those four walls and those four corners really does something to you, mentally and spiritually; it takes away a lot. It dehumanizes you,” said Butler in an AP interview.
Butler credits his trouble-ridden past for providing him with the motivation he needed to transform his life. “Now I look back in hindsight and I want to tell my younger self to stay hopeful. There are people out there that care. There is going to be elected officials out there in the future that’s going to care about this community in real-time. There’s going to be change on the horizon. They are going to come up with ways to rehabilitate that never dehumanize people,” said Butler.
After spending 14 seasons as an NBA player, he is now an assistant coach for the Miami Heat. His passion for social justice started with visits to incarcerated kids at the Oak Hill Youth Detention Center in 2005.
Butler helped organize the Urban Dialogue: Stop the Violence community outreach event and sponsors the Cops- N-Kids Reading Center.
Butler also teamed up with the Salvation Army and Walmart to sponsor a program called the Bike Brigade, which has distributed more than 2,500 new bikes and helmets to youth in Racine, Wisc., and in Washington, D.C.
Butler created his own program called Caron’s Coats for Kids, which distributes coats, hats, and gloves to youth in
Racine and Washington, D.C. In the summer of 2009, Butler organized Caron’s 3D Summer Explosion, a summer-long program that included events almost every weekend for kids.
He organized a day of service, a charity basketball game, a free basketball clinic, his annual Bike Brigade, as well as a back-to-school supply drive for kids in the area.
In July 2012 Butler continued to better his hometown of Racine by donating $200,000 to charitable organizations.
Barbara Fair, who was the lead organizer for the Stop Solitary CAT campaign (part of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture), believes that while thousands of people have horror stories about living in solitary confinement, it’s important for someone as well-known as Butler to step forward.
“This is somebody people can connect with. That’s the biggest problem around our prison system, is that often people have a hard time connecting with the humanity of incarcerated people,” said Fair.