Nearly 1,200 Oklahoma inmates who spend 23 hours a day locked in their cell, including some of the most dangerous offenders, soon could see more recreational time under new pilot program at the state’s maximum-security prison, the Associated Press reports. The shift from restricted housing or solitary confinement is a growing trend in the prison industry, said state corrections director Robert Patton. More than 1,180 Oklahoma prison inmates are confined to their cell with just five hours a week of solitary recreation time.
While Patton said there are both legal and budgetary motivations, there also is a moral obligation. “No matter what side of the pendulum you’re on — conservative, liberal or centrist — placing people in a single-cell environment for 23 hours a day is not a formula for success,” he said. “Some of our highest rates of recidivism are those that are released from restricted housing environments with no programming and no social interaction.” Many of the inmates in restricted housing suffer from mental illnesses, while others have caused problems and violated rules at other facilities. “I don’t want to release offenders (into society) from maximum custody,” Patton said. “We should be releasing offenders from community corrections centers, from work-release centers. At the very least from medium custody.”