(KRON) – A bill moving forward in the state legislature aims to limit the use of solitary confinement in jails, prisons, and detention facilities. Solitary confinement is when an inmate is left alone in a cell, sometimes for months on end.

The bill is called the California Mandela Act. The state senate passed it with majority support yesterday.

KRON4 spoke with a woman who was confined alone in a California jail when she was 19 years old. She is applauding the decision.

“It truly increased my paranoia,” Vanessa Ramos said. “It caused me to still live with post-traumatic stress. Being a young mom and not knowing where my baby was… it was really stressful. Detoxing in that environment was also extremely harsh.”

Solitary confinement means being kept in a cell about the size of a parking spot for nearly 24 hours at a time. The American Journal of Public Health found that being kept alone in a cell for a long time increases the risk of self-harm and even more aggression. Nonprofit Immigrant Defense Advocates reports this is still commonly practiced in California jails, prisons, and detention facilities.

Ramos is now a prison reform advocate with Disability Rights California. The group has backed Assembly Bill 2632 to clearly define solitary confinement and stop the use for certain people.

This week the California senate voted in its favor. If signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, it would:

Ban solitary confinement for vulnerable populations including;

  • Individuals with disabilities
  • Pregnant women
  • Youth and elderly
  • Prohibit long-term solitary/segregated confinement by limiting the time spent in confinement to not more than 15 consecutive days, or 20 days total in any 60-day period
  • Require facilities to keep clear records on the use of solitary confinement in order to provide public transparency.

In 2019, many Bay Area county jails started only isolating inmates when they are violent. Before it could have been something minor, like talking back. It has instead shifted to rewarding good behavior.