As states rethink the use of solitary confinement to punish unruly inmates, a prisons oversight group is reshaping national accreditation standards to reduce such procedures, reports the Associated Press. Proposals range from mandatory health care visits and mental illness treatment for inmates in segregation to more time out of cells for recreation and education. “The punishment that we give to Americans is deprivation of their liberty, but it doesn’t mean that we try to punish them more while their liberty is deprived,” said James Gondles, executive director of the American Correctional Association.
In Michigan, the state’s 7-year-old Incentives in Segregation program has led to reductions in misbehavior by inmates whose good behavior is rewarded with privileges in a step system. Last month, New York prison officials agreed to overhaul their use of solitary confinement, offering broad reforms aimed at reducing the number of inmates sent to “the box.” In September, California said it would end its unlimited isolation of imprisoned gang leaders, restricting a practice that once kept hundreds of inmates in notorious segregation units for a decade or longer. Also in September, the Association of State Correctional Administrators issued a report calling prolonged isolation of inmates in jails and prisons “a grave problem in the United States.” Gary Mohr, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, and Rick Raemisch, the Colorado prisons director, are developing the new American Correctional Association standards based on changes they’re pushing at home.