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Administrative segregation

"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.

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

The double punishment experienced by death-sentenced prisoners is documented. This publication should be read by any stakeholder connected with the capital punishment process—policy leaders, lawyers, judges, and the public. Sections contained in this report are: introduction; trapped in a broken system; punishment on top of punishment; survey reveals majority of death rows hold prisoners in solitary confinement—cramped and bare cells are the norm, most on death row experience extreme isolation and inactivity, and too many on death row are denied religious services; the devastating effects of prolonged solitary confinement are well known; “death row phenomenon” and staggering delays exacerbate damage; and conclusion. “Regardless of their stance on the death penalty, the people of the United States understand that a fair justice system must be a humane justice system. And by this measure, we are currently failing. It is time for reformers on both sides of the death penalty debate to recognize the hidden harms of solitary confinement inflicted on death row prisoners across the country. Solitary confinement is not part of the sentence. In order to build a criminal justice system that accurately reflects our values, we must end the routine use of solitary confinement of death row prisoners” (p. 3).

A Death Before Dying: Solitary Confinement on Death Row Cover

"Administrative segregation, the preferred term among correctional administrators, refers to both a classification and a type of unit. There are at least three distinct types of segregation: administrative segregation, disciplinary segregation, and protective … Any of these types of segregation might involve a regimen of solitary (or near solitary) confinement. Importantly, it is the increased use of solitary confinement, not segregation per se, that troubles those with concerns about contemporary correctional practice, and it is solitary confinement that has received the most attention in the research literature … Within the limited empirical knowledge base in this area, researchers have not always agreed on the areas of research that warrant review and evaluation, or they have been unable to draw conclusions from studies employing various methodologies. Further, for many researchers studying solitary confinement the practice raises not only empirical questions, but also moral and ethical concerns. In a literature base replete with highly charged emotions, interpreting the evidence base, and separating evidence from strongly held beliefs have become difficult. This paper attempts to describe the research in enough detail that the reader can reach his or her own conclusions around the current state of administrative segregation" (p. 1, Executive Summary). Sections comprising this report include: introduction; brief history of administrative segregation; contemporary use of administrative segregation; issues related to use of solitary confinement—juveniles, control of gangs, and mental illness; court decisions and consent decrees; the utility and effects of administrative segregation--violence; the psychological and behavioral effects of solitary confinement; the future of administrative segregation; and conclusion. Appendixes include: Table A1—Administrative Segregation in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP); Table A2—Percentage of Custodial Population (Both Sexes) In Administrative Segregation (Ad Seg) and Restrictive Housing; and Table A3—Goals and Intended Impacts Associated with Supermax Prisons.

Administrative Segregation in U.S. Prisons [Executive Summary and Report] Cover

“This report provides an overview of state and federal policies related to long-term isolation of inmates, a practice common in the United States and one that has drawn attention in recent years from many sectors. All jurisdictions in the United States provide for some form of separation of inmates from the general population. Prison administrators see the ability to separate inmates as central to protecting the safety of both inmates and staff. Yet many correctional systems are reviewing their use of segregated confinement; as controversy surrounds this form of control, its duration, and its effects” (p. 1). Sections following an overview of findings include: criteria for placement in administrative segregation; procedures and processes for placement; periodic review; and conditions, step-down programs, visitation, and degrees of isolation.

Administrative Segregation, Degrees of Isolation, and Incarceration: A National Overview of State and Federal Correctional Policies Cover

This report "provides the only current, comprehensive data on the use of restricted housing, in which individuals are held in their cells for 22 hours or more each day, and for 15 continuous days or more at a time. The Report also documents efforts across the country to reduce the number of people in restricted housing and to reform the conditions in which isolated prisoners are held in order to improve safety for prisoners, staff, and communities at large" (p. 1).

Cover image for Aiming to Reduce Time-In-Cell

This is an excellent resource for understanding current findings regarding solitary confinement and the potential challenges your agency may face. "Over the last two decades, the use of solitary confinement in U.S. correctional facilities has surged. Before 1990, “supermax” prisons were rare. Now, 44 states and the federal government have supermax units, where prisoners are held in extreme isolation, often for years or even decades. On any given day in this country, it’s estimated that over 80,000 prisoners are held in isolated confinement … As fiscal realities are forcing us to cut budgets for things like health and education, it is time to ask whether we should continue to use solitary confinement despite its high fiscal and human costs. This briefing paper provides an overview of the excessive use of solitary confinement in the U.S. and strategies for safely restricting its use." Sections of this publication cover: what solitary confinement is; how solitary confinement affects people; the impact of solitary confinement in people with mental illness; the people who are held in solitary confinement; whether children are ever held in solitary confinement; whether solitary confinement makes prison safer; whether solitary confinement is cost-effective; whether solitary confinement makes the public safer; and better alternatives—federal and state reforms. "Laws Limiting or Requiring Study of Solitary Confinement" and "Pending or Recently Proposed (2013 or 2014) Solitary Confinement Reform Bills" are appended.

Briefing Paper: The Dangerous Overuse of Solitary Confinement in the United States Cover

"In this document, the Bureau of Prisons (Bureau) finalizes regulations that establish and describe Communications Management Units (CMUs) by regulation. The CMUs regulations serve to detail the specific restrictions that may be imposed in the CMUs in a way that current regulations authorize but do not detail. CMUs are designed to provide an inmate housing unit environment that enables staff monitoring of all communications between inmates in a Communications Management Unit (CMU) and persons in the community. The ability to monitor such communication is necessary to ensure the safety, security, and orderly operation of correctional facilities, and protection of the public. These regulations represent a “floor” beneath which communications cannot be further restricted. The Bureau currently operates CMUs in two of its facilities. This rule clarifies existing Bureau practices with respect to CMUs." Sections cover: Designation to a CMU Is Not Discriminatory or Retaliatory; Assignment to a CMU With Notice Upon Arrival Does Not Violate the Due Process Clause; Restricting Inmates' Telephone and Visiting Privileges Does Not Violate the Due Process Clause; Restrictions on Unmonitored Communication With Members of the Media Are Not Unconstitutional; The Regulation Contains No “Absolute Ban” on Communication With Clergy, Consular Officials, or Non-Immediate Family Members; No-Contact Visitation in the CMU Is Constitutional Under the First Amendment; There Is a Rational Connection Between the Regulation and Its Objective; There Are Alternative Means of Exercising the Restricted Right; There Is a High-Risk Impact of Accommodating the Asserted Right on Prison Staff, Other Inmates, and Prison Resources; Alternatives Were Considered; A Prohibition on Contact Visitation Does Not Violate the Eighth Amendment; Conditions of CMU Confinement Are Not “Atypical and Significant”; Religious Activities for Inmates in CMUs Are Permitted in the Same Manner as Religious Activities for Inmates Who Are Not in CMUs; The Authority of the Assistant Director, Correctional Programs Division, To Approve CMU Designations May Not Be Delegated; and Additional Issues Raised During the 2014 Comment Period.

Communications Management Units Cover

"The prison setting imposes greater than normal restrictions on liberty, privacy, and communication. As a result, the prison comes under greater legal scrutiny regarding extent of the restrictions and deprivations of those restrictions and deprivations. Within the prison setting, the placement of inmates in restrictive housing or administrative segregation generates even greater judicial scrutiny due to the level of restriction, reasonableness of the placement and the indeterminate length of the segregation. Even with the proper policies in place, the conditions and programming in restrictive housing require careful review and attention for any correctional facility. In the past few decades, prisoners and prisoner right advocates have successfully challenged many departments on the use of restrictive housing. The following presents a brief overview of the areas in which departments have faced legal challenges" (p. 1). Constitutional challenges regarding restrictive housing in the recent past have been made based on First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Sixth Amendment, Eighth Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment.

Constitutional Implications of Restrictive Housing cover

This Amnesty International report discusses "concerns about conditions of severe isolation at the United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum facility in Colorado. It also examines conditions in Special Management Units and Security Housing Units operated at other federal prison facilities." Sections include: introduction--restrictions on access to ADX, lack of transparency regarding BOP use of isolation and long-term isolation in other parts of the federal system, and prisoners held in solitary confinement in pre-trial federal detention; further observations on conditions in ADX--conditions in General Population UNITS, exercise, in cell activities and programming, contact with staff, the Step-Down Program (SDP), prisoners in ADX more isolated than before, length of time in isolation/access to the SDP, lack of clear criteria or safeguards for progressions to the SDP, Special Security Unit (SSU) H-Unit, Control Unit, SHU, and Range 13, and mentally Ill Prisoners at ADX; overview of US obligations under international law and standards and U.S. Law and Standards; and recommendations.

Entombed: Isolation in the US Federal Prison System Cover

"In July 2015, the President announced that he had asked the Attorney General to review “the overuse of solitary confinement across American prisons.” Since that time, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has undertaken a thorough review to determine how, when, and why correctional facilities isolate certain prisoners from the general inmate population, and has now developed concrete strategies for safely reducing the use of this practice, also known as “restrictive housing,” throughout our criminal justice system. That review led to a Report to the President setting out Guiding Principles that would responsibly limit the use of restrictive housing at the federal, state, and local level, as well as specific recommendations for policies that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) can implement for federal prisons. The Report identifies ways to further humane and safe conditions for both inmates and the correctional officers charged with protecting them. [January 25, 2016], the President announced that he is adopting the recommendations in the Report, which is now available at and will be directing all relevant federal agencies to review the report and report back on their plan to address their use of solitary confinement. “Guiding Principles” For All Correctional Systems. The Report sets out more than 50 Guiding Principles, which cover a range of important reform areas including the use of the restrictive housing as a form of punishment, the appropriate conditions of confinement in restrictive housing, and the proper treatment of vulnerable inmate populations, such as juveniles, pregnant women, LGBTI inmates, and inmates with serious mental illness. These principles are informed by the best practices developed by the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) and the American Correctional Association (ACA) … New Policies Addressing BOP’s Use of Restrictive Housing. In recent years, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has reduced its use of restrictive housing by 25 percent without compromising the safety of its correctional officers and its facilities. The Report makes concrete recommendations that will accelerate this trend and change the conditions for thousands of inmates through a multi-pronged strategy."

FACT SHEET: Department of Justice Review of Solitary Confinement Cover


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