Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

A Confinement in Texas Solitary Failure: The Waste, Cost and Harm of Solitary

"The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) confines 4.4 percent of its prison population in solitary confinement. Texas locks more people in solitary-confinement cells than twelve states house in their entire prison system. On average, prisoners remain in solitary confinement for almost four years; over one hundred Texas prisoners have spent more than twenty years in solitary confinement. The conditions in which these people live impose such severe deprivations that they leave prison mentally damaged; as a group, people released from solitary are more likely to commit more new crimes than people released from the rest of the prison system. Yet in 2013, TDCJ released 1,243 people directly from solitary-confinement cells into Texas communities. These prisoners return to society after living for years or decades in a tiny cell for twenty-two hours a day, with no contact with other human beings or access to educational or rehabilitative programs. As documented in this report, this dangerous and expensive practice is making our state less safe" (p. 2). Section of this report following an executive summary discussing findings and recommendations: background-the early failure of solitary confinement, the misguided return to solitary confinement in the late Twentieth-Century, and the renewed consensus that solitary is a dangerous and expensive correctional practice; solitary confinement increases crime-solitary permanently damages people who will one day return to Texas communities, and the consequences of overusing solitary is more crime in Texas communities; Texas overuses solitary confinement at tremendous cost to taxpayers-costs are at least $46 million a year; TDCJ increases prison violence by overusing solitary confinement-solitary makes Texas prisons less safe, solitary deprives officers of the option to incentivize good behavior, violence escalates when officers deny people in solitary basic necessities, and other states improved prison safety by reducing solitary; mentally ill people deteriorate in solitary confinement-the universal consensus is that you should never place the seriously mentally ill in solitary, Texas sends thousands of people with mental illness to solitary, and TDCJ inadequately monitors and treats people with mental illness in solitary; and conclusion-values and commitments as Texans.