Former UConn star and NBA player Caron Butler wants to strictly limit the use of solitary confinement and other forms of isolation in prisons. Back when Butler was a teenager, he spent days locked in a solitary confinement cell inside a juvenile prison. He dealt drugs and was arrested more than a dozen times before spending over a year in prison on firearms and drug possession charges.
Now, he’s gone to Connecticut’s state Capitol asking Gov. Ned Lamont to sign legislation limiting solitary confinement. The bill requires all inmates to be allowed at least 6 ½ hours out of their cells, and limits the use of certain restraints. It arrives as the state is closing its maximum-security Northern Correctional Institution, which was designed specifically to keep prisoners in isolation.
When Butler was 15, he got into a fight in prison and was thrown into solitary. He spent two weeks in a small cell, isolated for 23 hours a day.
Butler said in an interview with The Associated Press, “Mentally and spiritually, it takes away a lot. It dehumanizes you.”
He believes he survived because of a strong family support system. While in prison, Butler turned his life around when he discovered basketball. When he got out, Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun saw something in him and offered him a scholarship.
He went on to become the Big East Conference’s player of the year in 2002, and spent 14 seasons in the NBA. He’s now an assistant coach with the Miami Heat.
However, what Butler endured in prison, he says he’ll never forget it. He’s hoping that the Connecticut legislation will serve as an example for other states.
“There are people out there that care. There are 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.