Segregation Summary 2017
More than a quarter of all states—spanning the political and geographic divide—are now working to reduce their use of solitary confinement.

The path continued when Vera launched its Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative, generously funded by the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, in 2015. Numerous states and counties applied to partner with us and examine their practices with an aim to reform. Details of what we learned is outlined in the five reports, starting with baseline recommendations that restrictive housing be used only:

  • As a last resort;
  • As a response to the most serious and threatening behavior;
  • For the shortest time possible; and
  • With the least restrictive conditions possible.

Middlesex County, NJ; Nebraska; New York City; North Carolina; and Oregon are in different phases of their implementation work: Nebraska has eliminated the use of restrictive housing as a punishment for rule violations; North Carolina has begun programs to divert people with serious mental illness from restrictive housing and into treatment units, and abolished the use of restrictive housing for those age 17 and younger; Middlesex County, New Jersey reports a reduction in their average daily population and average length of stay in restrictive housing by over 50 percent; New York City has eliminated the use of punitive segregation for people 21 and younger, and reports a reduction in punitive segregation by 70 percent; and Oregon is developing a comprehensive plan to implement system-wide reforms.

In the meantime, five new states began working with us this year: Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, Utah, and Virginia. That’s 13 states and 3 counties—more than a quarter of all states—that vary by size, mission, and geographic location. In addition to these sites, corrections agencies who are represented on the initiative’s advisory council have forged ahead with their reforms, with Colorado most notably announcing their elimination of long-term solitary confinement (longer than 15 days). Experts in mental health, corrections, and those with lived experiences who are on the advisory council have continued to bring national attention to this issue, most recently being featured in a CBS' 60 Minutes special with Oprah Winfrey.

It’s no longer a vanguard—it’s a movement. We are proud to end the year in partnership with these leaders who are able to advocate for and make the changes needed, knowing the difference it will make in the lives of people incarcerated in our prisons and jails, in the lives of those working there, and in the communities which 90 percent of incarcerated people will go home to.


Series: Addressing the Overuse of Segregation in U.S. Prisons and Jails

Women Face Unique Harms from Solitary Confinement

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  • Barbara Owen
    Barbara Owen
October 02, 2020
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Series: Addressing the Overuse of Segregation in U.S. Prisons and Jails

Looking to Norway for Inspiration on Reducing the Use of Solitary Confinement

Recognized as a leader in progressive incarceration, Norway’s system is based on the idea that courts are for punishment and correctional facilities are for creating better neighbors. Correctional policies and practices center around respect for the human dignity of incarcerated people and staff. They focus primarily on rehabilitation, resocializat ...

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  • Janelle Guthrie
March 11, 2020
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Series: Addressing the Overuse of Segregation in U.S. Prisons and Jails

Corrections at a Crossroads

Ironically, prisons began as 19th century reforms—a movement away from the barbarism of public humiliation, corporal punishment, and executions. Practices like solitary confinement—pioneered at Eastern State Penitentiary and in Auburn Prison’s regime of silent, forced labor—were meant to rehabilitate incarcerated people. They reflected moralistic a ...

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  • Sebastian Johnson
    Sebastian Johnson
February 24, 2020
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