Equal Opportunity For All
End Mass Incarceration
Policy Library

End Long-term Solitary Confinement

Solitary confinement costs states between 45% and 150% more per prisoner than those not held in solitary. The mental health impacts on prisoners are often extreme and irreversible: being locked up alone for entire days can lead to difficulty interacting with others and self-harm. Solitary confinement also increases the chances that formerly incarcerated individuals will recommit crimes when they come home—making communities less safe. The End Long-Term Solitary Act will save money, reduce prison violence to improve conditions for inmates and staff, and help reduce crime in communities.

The National Landscape

Passed in:

Colorado, New Jersey

Introduced in:

New York

In The News

“In the US, at least 61,000 people are held in solitary confinement on any given day. It is a widespread practice, but over the past few decades, a number of studies have shown the negative psychological effects of solitary confinement are often irreversible.”
“Since we introduced this model to our jail, detainee-on-detainee assaults have dropped significantly and assaults on staff plummeted. Last year we recorded the lowest number of total assaults since the [solitary confinement replacement] was established.”

Partners

  • Criminal justice advocates
  • Mental health advocates
  • Community public safety groups
  • Prison administrators

Opposition

  • Private prisons that do not want to be regulated
Call us for real-time support using this library, problem-solving tips, and follow-up from our team of national experts:
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FAQ

Who does this help?
This helps everyone who is interested in reducing crime and incarceration rates. Those held in solitary are 35% more likely to commit crimes and land back in prison. Eliminating long-term solitary confinement will help improve the mental health of those affected, make the jobs of prison staff safer and more manageable, and ease the transition back into communities for formerly incarcerated individuals.
How does this address hunger in my state?
By coordinating existing federal resources, state and local programs, and businesses and nonprofits working to address hunger, this policy creates a more effective and efficient effort to ensure that every resident has access to food.
Is this high cost to the state?
No. Evidence shows that locking inmates up in solitary confinement costs states more than double what it otherwise would cost to house inmates and keep facilities safe.
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Model Policy

SECTION 1 (TITLE):
This act shall be known as the End Solitary Confinement Act.

SECTION 2 (PURPOSE):
To end punitive solitary confinement in prisons.

SECTION 3 (PROVISIONS):

(a) "Member of a vulnerable population" means any inmate who:
  • (i) is 25 years of age or younger;
  • (ii) is 65 years of age or older;
  • (iii) has a disability based on a mental illness, as defined in state law, a history of psychiatric hospitalization, or has recently exhibited conduct, including but not limited to serious self-mutilation, indicating the need for further observation or evaluation to determine the presence of mental illness;
  • (iv) has a developmental disability, as defined in subsection b. of section 3 of P.L.1985, c.145 (C.30:6D-25);
  • (v) has a serious medical condition which cannot effectively be treated in isolated confinement;
  • (vi) is pregnant, is in the 60-day postpartum period, or has recently suffered a miscarriage or terminated a pregnancy;
  • (vii) has a significant auditory or visual impairment; or
  • (viii) is perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex.

(b) The use of isolated confinement in correctional facilities in this State shall be restricted as follows:
  • (i) An inmate shall not be placed in isolated confinement unless there is reasonable cause to believe that the inmate would create a substantial risk of immediate and serious harm to him or herself or another, including but not limited to a correctional police officer or other employee or volunteer in the facility and a less restrictive intervention would be insufficient to reduce this risk, except as otherwise provided in (d)(i),(ii), or (iv). Except as otherwise provided in (d)(i),(ii), or (iv), the correctional facility shall bear the burden of establishing this standard by clear and convincing evidence.
  • (ii) Except as otherwise provided in (d)(i), an inmate shall not be placed in isolated confinement before receiving a personal and comprehensive medical and mental health examination conducted by a clinician; however, in a county correctional facility, a preliminary examination shall be conducted by a member of the medical staff within 12 hours of confinement and the clinical examination shall be conducted within 48 hours of confinement.
  • (iii) Except as otherwise provided in (d)(i), an inmate shall only be held in isolated confinement pursuant to initial procedures and reviews which provide timely, fair and meaningful opportunities for the inmate to contest the confinement. These procedures shall include the right to an initial hearing within 48 hours of placement and a review every 15 days thereafter, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, unavoidable delays, or reasonable postponements; the right to appear at the hearing; the right to be represented at the hearing; an independent hearing officer; and a written statement of reasons for the decision made at the hearing.
  • (iv) Except as otherwise provided in (d)(iii), the final decision to place an inmate in isolated confinement shall be made by the facility administrator.
  • (v) Except as otherwise provided in (b)(vi) or (d)(iii), an inmate shall not be placed or retained in isolated confinement if the facility administrator determines that the inmate no longer meets the standard for the confinement.
  • (vi) A clinician shall conduct a mental health and physical health status examination for each inmate placed in isolated confinement on a daily basis, in a confidential setting outside of the cell whenever possible, to determine whether the inmate is a member of a vulnerable population. Except as otherwise provided in (d), an inmate determined to be a member of a vulnerable population shall be immediately removed from isolated confinement and moved to an appropriate placement.
  • (vii) A disciplinary sanction of isolated confinement which has been imposed on an inmate who is removed from isolated confinement pursuant to (b)(vi) shall be deemed to be satisfied.
  • (viii) Except as otherwise provided in (d)(i) during a facility-wide lock down, an inmate shall not be placed in isolated confinement for more than 15 consecutive days, or for more than 30 days during any 60-day period.
  • (ix) Cells or other holding or living space used for isolated confinement are to be properly ventilated, lit, temperature-controlled, clean, and equipped with properly functioning sanitary fixtures.
  • (x) A correctional facility shall maximize the amount of time that an inmate held in isolated confinement spends outside of the cell by providing, as appropriate, access to recreation, education, clinically appropriate treatment therapies, skill-building activities, and social interaction with staff and other inmates.
  • (xi) An inmate held in isolated confinement shall not be denied access to food, water, or any other basic necessity.
  • (xii) An inmate held in isolated confinement shall not be denied access to appropriate medical care, including emergency medical care.
  • (xiii) An inmate shall not be directly released from isolated confinement to the community during the final 180 days of the inmate's term of incarceration, unless it is necessary for the safety of the inmate, staff, other inmates, or the public.

(c) An inmate shall not be placed in isolated confinement or in any other cell or other holding or living space, in any facility, with one or more inmates if there is reasonable cause to believe that there is a risk of harm or harassment, intimidation, extortion, or other physical or emotional abuse to that inmate or another inmate in that placement.

(d) Isolated confinement shall be permitted under limited circumstances as follows:
  • (i) The facility administrator determines that a facility-wide lock down is required to ensure the safety of inmates in the facility until the administrator determines that these circumstances no longer exist. The facility administrator shall document specific reasons why any lockdown is necessary for more than 24 hours, and why less restrictive interventions are insufficient to accomplish the facility's safety goals. Within 5 days, the commissioner shall publish the reasons on the Department of Corrections website and provide meaningful notice of the reasons for the lockdown to the Legislature.
  • (ii) The facility administrator determines that an inmate should be placed in emergency confinement, provided that:
  • (a) an inmate shall not be held in emergency confinement for more than 24 hours;
  • (b) an inmate held in emergency confinement shall receive an initial medical and mental health evaluation immediately prior to placement in emergency confinement and a personal and comprehensive medical and mental health evaluation shall be conducted by a member of the medical staff within 12 hours of confinement and the comprehensive medical and mental health evaluation within 48 hours. Reports of these evaluations shall be immediately provided to the facility administrator;
  • (c) an inmate shall not be held in emergency confinement for any reason except for immediate and serious harm to him or herself or another.
  • (iii) A clinician, based on a personal examination, determines that an inmate should be placed or retained in medical isolation. The decision to place and retain an inmate in medical isolation due to a mental health emergency shall be made by a clinician based on a personal examination. In any case of isolation under this paragraph, a clinical review shall be conducted at least every eight hours or more often if clinically indicated. An inmate in medical isolation pursuant to this paragraph may be placed in a mental health unit as designated by the commissioner. In the case of a county correctional facility, a decision to place an inmate in medical isolation shall be made by a member of the medical staff and be based on a personal examination; clinical reviews shall be conducted within 48 hours and then as clinically indicated.
  • (iv) The facility administrator determines that an inmate should be placed in protective custody as follows:
  • (A) The facility shall keep a written record of a request by an inmate to be placed in voluntary protective custody. The inmate may be placed in voluntary protective custody only with informed, voluntary , written consent and when there is reasonable cause to believe that confinement is necessary to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm. When an inmate makes an informed, voluntary, written request for protective custody, the correctional facility shall bear the burden of establishing a basis for refusing the request.
  • (B) The inmate may be placed in involuntary protective custody only when there is clear and convincing evidence that confinement is necessary to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm and that a less restrictive intervention would not be sufficient to prevent the harm.
  • (C) An inmate placed in protective custody shall receive comparable opportunities for activities, movement, and social interaction, consistent with their safety and the safety of others, as are inmates in the general population of the facility.
  • (D) An inmate subject to removal from protective custody shall be provided with a timely, fair, and meaningful opportunity to contest the removal.
  • (E) An inmate who may be placed or currently is in voluntary protective custody may opt out of that status by providing informed, voluntary, written refusal of that status.
  • (F) The facility administrator shall place an inmate in a less restrictive intervention, including transfer to the general population of another institution or to a special-purpose housing unit for inmates who face similar threats, before placing the inmate in isolated confinement for protection unless the inmate poses a security risk so great that transferring the inmate would be insufficient to ensure the inmate's safety.
  • (v) An inmate shall not be placed in isolated confinement pending investigation of a disciplinary offense unless:
  • (A) the inmate's presence in the general population poses a danger to the inmate, staff, other inmates, or the public. In making this determination, the facility administrator shall consider the seriousness of the alleged offense, including whether the offense involved violence or escape or posed a threat to institutional safety by encouraging others to engage in misconduct; or
  • (B) the facility administrator has granted approval in an emergency situation.
  • (C) An inmate's placement in isolated confinement pending investigation of a disciplinary offense shall be reviewed within 24 hours by a supervisory employee who was not involved in the initial placement decision.

(e) Within 90 days before the effective date of this act, the commissioner shall:
  • (i) initiate a review of each inmate placed in isolated confinement pursuant to the policies and procedures developed and implemented under subsection a. of this section;
  • (ii) develop a plan for providing step-down and transitional units, programs, and staffing patterns to accommodate inmates currently placed in isolated confinement, inmates who will be placed in isolated confinement, and inmates who receive an intermediate sanction in lieu of being placed in isolated confinement. Staffing patterns for correctional and program staff shall be set at levels necessary to ensure the safety of staff and inmates under the provisions of this act; and
  • (iii) develop policies and implement procedures for the review of inmates placed in isolated confinement and submit proposed regulations, including:
  • (A) establishing less restrictive interventions to isolated confinement, including separation from other inmates; transfer to other correctional facilities; and any non-isolated confinement sanction authorized by Department of Corrections regulations; restrictions on religious, mail, and telephone privileges, visit contacts, or outdoor and recreation access shall only be imposed as is necessary for the safety of the inmate or others, but shall not restrict access to food, basic necessities, or legal access;
  • (B) requiring training of disciplinary staff and all staff working with inmates in isolated confinement and requiring that this training include:
  • (1) assistance from appropriate professionals to periodically train all staff working with inmates in isolated confinement;
  • (2) standards for isolated confinement, including that it shall be limited to when an inmate commits an offense involving violence, escapes or attempts to escape, or poses a threat to institutional safety; that the maximum penalties for each offense shall be based on the seriousness of the offense; and available less restrictive interventions; and
  • (3) the identification of developmental disabilities, and the symptoms of mental illness, including trauma disorders, and methods of safe responses to people in distress;
  • (C) requiring documentation of all decisions, procedures, and reviews of inmates placed in isolated confinement;
  • (D) requiring monitoring of compliance with all rules governing cells, units, and other places where inmates are placed in isolated confinement;
  • (E) requiring posting on the official website of the Department of Corrections of quarterly reports on the use of isolated confinement, without revealing any personal identifying information, by age, sex, gender identity, ethnicity, incidence of mental illness, and type of confinement status, at each facility. These reports shall include the population on the last day of each quarter and a non-duplicative cumulative count of people exposed to isolated confinement for each fiscal year. These inmate reports also shall include the incidence of emergency confinement, self-harm, suicide, and assault in any isolated confinement unit. These reports shall not include personally identifiable information regarding any inmate; and
  • (F) modifying state law for consistency with the provisions of this section and to require appropriate alternative placements for vulnerable populations in county correctional facilities.