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Solitary confinement

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 is an important video to see, especially following U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's remarks that the excessive use of solitary confinement for juveniles needs to stop. Various youth tell us their stories about how insolation has affected them. Spread throughout are observation from correctional personnel. This investigation "toggles between New York City and Santa Cruz, where young people tell their own stories of isolation and how the justice system can do better." The program begins with a look at Rikers Island, New York City's enormous jail complex. The program then concludes with a visit to the Santa Cruz County Juvenile Hall, a national model that has "reduced the use of isolation so much that corrections officials around the country routinely traveled to California's Central Coast to see how they did it".

Alone: Teens in Solitary Confinement Cover

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

The segregated housing unit practices of the United States Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and compliance with them are reviewed. Sections comprising this report are: background to the investigation; Segregated Housing Unit population and number of cells have increased since Fiscal Year 2008; BOP’s monitoring of segregated housing policies varies by type of unit, and some facilities’ documentation is incomplete; BOP estimates that segregated housing costs more than housing inmates in the general population; BOP has not evaluated the impact of segregated housing units on institutional safety or the impacts of long-term segregation on inmates; concluding remarks; recommendations for Executive Action; and BOP comments and GAO evaluation. “GAO recommends that BOP (1) develop ADX-specific monitoring requirements; (2) develop a plan that clarifies how BOP will address documentation concerns GAO identified, through the new software program; (3) ensure that any current study to assess segregated housing also includes reviews of its impact on institutional safety; and (4) assess the impact of long-term segregation. BOP agreed with these recommendations and reported it would take actions to address them.”

Bureau of Prisons: Improvements Needed in Bureau of Prisons' Monitoring and Evaluation of Impact of Segregated Housing Cover

The successful efforts of individuals to reduce the use of solitary confinement and to make the conditions found in solitary settings are described. Sections of this case study include: introduction; the origins of solitary confinement; the psychological effects of long-term isolation; before the reforms—solitary confinement in Maine; it does not have to be this way—the Maine reform example of what and how it happened; keys to success—honest assessment and organizing and cooperation; overcoming institutional inertia related to safety, alternatives, reform worth the effort, and whether advocated really understand the situation; the lessons of the Maine reform campaign—bring all the pieces together, the importance of leadership, and the judicious and timely application of pressure; and conclusion.

Change Is Possible: A Case Study of Solitary Confinement Reform in Maine 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

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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