The Vera Institute of Justice has chosen five state and local corrections departments to participate in a Safe Alternatives to Segregation initiative aimed at reducing use of solitary confinement and other forms of segregated prisoner housing. State corrections departments in Nebraska, Oregon, and North Carolina, and local departments in New York City and Middlesex County, New Jersey were chosen after a competitive bidding process. Vera says that over the past three decades, corrections departments increasingly used solitary confinement to punish disruptive but nonviolent behavior, protect vulnerable inmates, or temporarily house inmates awaiting the completion of a facility transfer.
Inmates may be held in segregation for days, years, and in some instances, decades. A growing body of evidence suggests that segregation is counterproductive, Vera says. One report says that nearly every study of segregation's effects conducted over the past 150 years has concluded that subjecting an individual to more than 10 days of involuntary segregation harms his or her emotional, cognitive, social, and physical well-being. The new initiative expands on Vera's Segregation Reduction Project, which since 2010 has worked with state and local departments of correctionsate and local departments of corrections in Washington state, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and elsewhere to reduce their reliance on segregation.