Solitary Use Declines in Some States, But For Some Inmates, It Lasts Three Years: Study

Print More

Photo by Felton Davis via Flickr

The number of people in solitary confinement has decreased in more than two dozen states since 2013, but increased in 11 states, according to a new nationwide survey

In the fourth of a series of research projects co-authored by the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) and the Arthur Liman Center at Yale Law School, researchers found that the criteria for placing people in solitary—also called “restrictive housing”—had narrowed since the previous study published in 2013.

“In some places, behaviors that once put people into restrictive housing—from “horse play” to possession of small amounts of marijuana—no longer do,” the study said.  “And for those people in restrictive housing, efforts are reportedly underway in some jurisdictions to create more out-of cell time and more group-based activities.”

The study, entitled “Reforming Restrictive Housing: The 2018 ASCA-Liman Nationwide Survey of Time-in-Cell,” also found that efforts were underway in some jurisdictions to create more out-ofcell time and more group-based activities.

Restrictive housing is defined as separating prisoners from the general population and holding them in cells for an average of 22 hours or more per day for 15 continuous days or more.

But the report said that the amount of time spent in solitary was “of increasing concern.”

About a quarter of the jurisdictions responding to survey questions, found that nearly 27 per cent of inmates were placed in in restrictive housing for three months to a year. Some 3,721 people (9.1 percent of 41,061 people) were held for more than three years, and of that number, 1,950 were reported to have been in restrictive housing for more than six years.

The 43 jurisdictions who responded to the study with data on both the total custodial population and the numbers of prisoners in restrictive housing reported that about 4.5 percent of their total inmate population, or 49,197 were in restrictive housing. Based on their extrapolations, the researchers estimated that approximately 61,000 prisoners were in restrictive housing across the United States in the fall of 2017.33

Among the 33 jurisdictions reporting on race and ethnicity among male prisoners in the total custodial population and in restrictive housing, Black men comprised 46.1% of the male restrictive housing population, as compared to 42.5% of the total male custodial population in those jurisdictions

The report also carried essays by prison administrators in North Dakota, Ohio, Idaho and California summing up their efforts to reform or eliminate the use of solitary confinement.

The full report is available here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *