Dannel Malloy says he inherited a criminal justice system that no one today would choose to build from scratch. "We would not create this system again," he says. "No one would sit around in a room and say that we should have a system that is as punitive and as hopeless about the ability of people to turn themselves around."
In the 1990s, before scientists had the tools to understand the teenage brain, judges around the country sentenced thousands of adolescents to life in prison. Today, emerging science is reshaping how long juveniles offenders spend behind bars.
More than 30 states have moved to reduce their use of solitary confinement as prison hunger strikes, lawsuits and activism have brought new scrutiny to the mental health effects of isolation, and the risks that freed prisoners might pose following long-term exposure to solitary.
Supporters of solitary confinement have speculated that the harsh conditions of isolation may deter inmates from committing more crimes in the future. Data from correctional facilities in a handful of states reveal a different story.