Administrative Segregation and Violence Reduction Initiative
The Department of Corrections has established many committees and subcommittees to review its use of administrative
segregation in an effort to reduce the use WHILE also reducing prison violence. This page is intended to offer a timeline
of these activities.
December 2, 2016, Update:
DOCs Visit Somerset to Learn about Swift, Certain Fair
Dec. 1, SCI Somerset was fortunate to receive a visit from DOC officials from
Illinois and Nebraska. They were
accompanied by a BetaGov staff member who set up this "Peer to Peer"
visitors included a regional deputy secretary, wardens, a classification and
program manager and a unit manager.
Additionally, Dr. Bret Bucklen, director of the PA DOC’s Planning,
Research & Statistics participated in the visit.
primary purpose of the visit was for them to learn more about the "Swift,
Certain and Fair" (SCF) program and to share ideas which can benefit all
three jurisdictions,” SCI Somerset Superintendent Trevor Wingard said.
group was joined by SCI Somerset staff and toured several areas of the
facility, focusing on the SCF units and the RHU pods.
was a very successful visit with some great networking and new partnerships
formed,” Wingard said.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
November 2016 Update:
A new report, jointly authored by the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) and the Arthur Liman Program at Yale Law School, reflects a profound change in the national discussion about the use of what correctional officials call “restrictive housing” and what is popularly known as “solitary confinement.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
DOC’s Moore Smeal Featured
in NIC Webinar
Earlier this week, Department of
Corrections Executive Deputy Secretary Shirley Moore Smeal was among a select
group of national correctional leaders picked to lead a training session during
a two-day nationwide conference.
The conference, “Restrictive
Housing: Roadmap to Reform” was hosted by the National Institute of Corrections,
under the U.S. Department of Justice, which is seeking ways to reduce the use
of restrictive housing in correctional institutions.
Restrictive housing, also
known as solitary confinement, is under intense scrutiny at the national level
as well as in Pennsylvania where sweeping changes are being made to reduce
violence and the need for restrictive housing.
Last year President Obama
asked the Justice Department to look at the overuse of restrictive housing,
saying that it too often led to inmates being more likely to commit violence
when they were released.
Since 2015, under the
leadership of Secretary John Wetzel, the Pennsylvania DOC has been actively
developing and implementing a number of strategies to reduce the use of
restrictive housing from improved staff training to changes in cell block
Moore Smeal’s presentation
highlighted a number of initiatives now underway in Pennsylvania facilities to
improve conditions in restrictive housing units and reduce tensions that can
lead to violence.
Among the most successful
programs is the expansion of Certified Peer Support Specialists where inmates,
who themselves have suffered from mental illness or substance abuse disorder,
are trained to help other inmates who are experiencing a mental health crisis.
Moore Smeal outlined
design changes taking place to improve cells and common spaces in restricted
housing units and the introduction of mural arts and dog training programs as
ways to create a more humane environment.
One video featured Deputy
Superintendent Wendy Nicholas and members of her treatment staff at SCI Muncy,
one of two women’s prisons in Pennsylvania, who have developed a team-approach
to addressing those with mental illness to help them better reintegrate with
their families upon release.
“There are programs for
women that are gender responsive and that are effective and successful,” said
Moore Smeal, adding this and other changes can be made without jeopardizing
safety or security.
Also highlighted was the
Swift, Certain and Fair (SCF) punishment policy, which started as a pilot in
January at SCI Somerset. The idea behind the initiative was to establish
unacceptable behaviors and sanctions beforehand and then apply punishment
swiftly and fairly.
The program has been
recognized for reducing inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff assaults and has
been expanded to nine other prisons.
Moore Smeal also detailed
the variety of different units developed to address inmates with diverse needs,
whether veterans, those suffering from mental health disorders or those
transitioning from restrictive housing to the general population.
talking about changing the culture, humanizing the system,” said Moore Smeal.
“We need to look at each person as an individual and what is best for that
~ ~ ~ ~
October 2016 Update:
Testing Concepts to Reduce Violence and Use of Restricted Housing
Since the fall of 2015, DOC employees of all classifications have been
meeting to address the need to reduce the use of administrative segregation
(known as restricted housing in Pennsylvania).
The DOC is committed to doing this while reducing the incidents of
inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff assaults.
For nearly a year, employees have been assigned to and working on
committees that look into a variety of issues.
The DOC also has joined forces with BetaGov, a non-profit organization
that helps agencies take concepts and put them into workable and measurable
DOC employees suggest concepts and BetaGov helps put the concepts into
action. Many concepts are now being
piloted (or tested, in other words).
Some concepts may prove useful, while others may not, and that’s what
makes the piloting of those concepts so important. We’ll try something and if it works we’ll
implement it. But if we try something
and it doesn’t work, we move on to another concept to test.
DOC partnered with BetaGov, DOC employees have submitted more than 100 ideas or
concepts for trials … all meant to reduce the need for the use of
administrative segregation and all done while working to reduce
inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-employee violence in our state prisons.
Some concepts that are in some form of being tested include:
Certain and Fair (SCF) Pod – UNDERWAY, BEING EXPANDED
SCI Somerset has taken a new approach to managing
inmates’ behavior through the use of Swift, Certain and Fair (SCF) responses to
This began on January 1, 2016, when inmates
assigned to one custody level 4 general-population housing-unit pod were given
a list of nine behaviors that would no longer be addressed through the
established misconduct process. Instead, the pod was informed that these
behaviors would be addressed by staff on their unit, including the corrections
officers, the unit sergeants and the unit manager. Certain behaviors would be
handled through the SCF process.
The inmates were also informed of the consequences
of these behaviors. They were given a progressive-discipline scale that
provides for sanctions ranging from "reprimand and warning" to
"cell restriction," which could be for the remainder of that day and
up to the following five days, with several steps in between. These sanctions
are certain (i.e., specified) with respect to how many times a specific
behavior is observed in the previous 365 days.
A preliminary review of results 90 days after the
pilot began shows promising results.
The SCF pod has had fewer misconducts, infractions
and grievances compared with other pods at SCI Somerset. Somerset leadership
notes that staff are reporting positive interaction between the unit staff and
inmates, reduced stress levels and an increased sense of security in their work
Based on the early positive results, SCI Somerset
has been granted approval to extend the pilot for 90 days and to begin another
SCF pilot on another pod in the facility.
External researchers are conducting a formal evaluation of SCF at SCI
Somerset, and the DOC has decided to extend the pilot to 12 other state
Privilege Housing Unit (LPHU) - UNDERWAY
SCI Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania
Are segregation alternatives effective at producing
desired behavioral changes in non-violent inmates? A groundbreaking pilot program at SCI Laurel
Highlands will test that question by creating a new step in the facility’s
Instead of being placed in segregation, inmates
with non-violent misconduct infractions who do not pose a security risk will be
put in the facility’s Limited Privilege Housing Unit (LPHU). Unlike inmates in
segregation, LPHU inmates will be permitted to leave their cells every day
without restraints for scheduled activities such as meals, showers, programming
and time in the segregation yard with an additional inmate. All movements will
be controlled and observed by the unit control center, and inmates will be
subjected to weekly review by unit staff.
Other conditions typical to restricted housing
units, such as intake property processing and suicide risk assessments, will
remain the same. When not participating in scheduled activities, inmates will
be in their cell with the door secured.
Adult Coloring Books – UNDERWAY
is currently conducting a trial to examine the effectiveness of an individual
art program using adult coloring books to reduce anxiety and depression while
inmate are in restricted housing.
Inmates held in restricted housing units for
extended periods of time are often subject to exacerbated psychological stress.
(Metzer & Fellner, 2010). The
heightened stress experienced by these inmates can result in an outbreak of
violence, suicidal attempts, and psychological disorders which jeopardizes the
safety of prison staff and inmates.
Art therapy has been associated with a decrease in
negative behaviors. As a therapy tool,
use of adult coloring books may calm anxiety and elevate mood. Although
coloring books in one’s cell is not art therapy guided by a therapist, the
outcomes may be similarly positive.
The RHU Coloring Trial started on September 12,
2016. Stage 1 will end on October 12th
(30 days). Stage 2 will end on November
11th (60 days). If there are any
remaining subjects from the baseline measurements, 90 day measurements will be
collected on December 12th.
Room - UNDERWAY
SCI Laurel Highlands
It is well-known that segregation can have
deleterious effects on inmate mental health. Research suggests that a natural
environment, even if only simulated, can help reduce stress. Inspired by
related work done at other institutions, SCI Laurel Highlands is seeking to
transform its restrictive housing unit by creating a "Blue Room."
Aptly named, the Blue Room contains a television
screen and chair so that RHU inmates can watch nature images and listen to
tranquil natural sounds, such as a streaming river. The room's walls feature a
soothing ocean mural; artificial indoor plants complete the scene. RHU inmates
will be sent to the Blue Room for one-hour increments. Officials at SCI Laurel
Highlands hope that this intervention will reduce tensions, violence, and
noncompliance among inmates while also having a positive effect on their mental
Housing Unit (RHU) Tablets – UNDERWAY
On May 1, 2016, SCI Smithfield began examining the
use of a mobile kiosk and personal tablet devices as an incentive for good
behavior for inmates housed in the restricted housing unit (RHU). The goal of
this trial is to determine whether it reduces misbehaviors.
Inmates who have demonstrated a positive adjustment
over a set period of time while housed in the RHU are eligible to use their
previously purchased tablet or use the kiosk (if they don’t already own a
tablet device). The kiosk and the personal tablet allows the inmate to retrieve
e-mail messages, submit internal paperwork and access approved music. While an inmate can compose messages on the
personal tablet, the message cannot be sent without being connected to the
kiosk. Tablets and kiosks are used daily by general population inmates, but RHU
inmates are not permitted these items.
When criteria is met and approval is given for this
privilege, if the inmate owns a personal tablet, it will be issued to him from
his property and he will retain it in his RHU cell. All approved inmates with or without a tablet
may then request to use the kiosk unit.
The inmate submits a “Request For Use” form, and access is granted on a
first come, first served basis. The
inmate is then escorted to an individual treatment unit and secured
inside. The portable kiosk unit is
placed in front of the unit for the inmate to use for a 15-minutes.
The program has shown good potential as a useful
tool for RHU and administrative staff at Smithfield. Grievances, misconducts and use of force
incidents have all been on the decline.
Not all of the reductions can be contributed solely to this program, but
it is and has been an effective tool in some scenarios.
Crisis Intervention Teams in Residential Treatment Units – UNDERWAY
SCI Greene is currently hosting a trial to examine
the effectiveness of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for staff members
working on the Residential Treatment Unit’s (RTU’s). During this trial CIT-trained staff work one
pod of the unit while non-CIT-trained staff are assigned to the other.
Inmates housed in the RTU often experience
emotional crises. This trial will measure the effectiveness of CIT-trained
staff for improving mental health outcomes for those housed in RTU’s.
The RTU is designed to provide structure,
consistency and support for inmates diagnosed with a serious psychiatric
disorder and/or serious impairment to psychological functioning.
Data to be collected during the trial incudes
medication compliance, misconducts, program attendance, POC placement,
self-injurious behavior and Diversionary Treatment Unit placement. The trial
began August 1, 2016, and will last four months.
Unit Mural - UNDERWAY
SCI Laurel Highlands
Vivid pops of bright yellow, hints of hot pink and
strokes of electric blue immediately catch the eye, framing the mysterious
shadow of a sunken ship in the distance. Orcas glide serenely through clear
blue depths as gleaming rays of sunlight dance weightlessly in the water.
Sharks swim past a school of fish, left undisturbed to graze in a coral reef.
This scene is not located in the Caribbean, but in
a Pennsylvania prison. Officials at SCI Laurel Highlands have had the walls of
the facility's medical unit painted in order to learn more about how changing
spaces transforms human behavior. While art and nature therapy have been used
successfully in a variety of contexts, the use of artwork in prisons is a
relatively new concept. Gazing at the mural, one might not even notice the
secured doors, meal tray slots and concrete blocks over which it is painted.
SCIs Frackville, Pittsburgh and Retreat
Prisons house hundreds of people who are all confined to a unit
comprised of numerous cells that serve as all-in-one bathrooms, bedrooms and
eating areas. As you can imaging, these areas have their own unique aromas.
While it may seem obvious, bad odors, like that of feces, can elicit a
negative feeling, while good odors, like peppermint, can elicit a positive
feeling. How we associate an odor directly influences our mood, and our mood
directly influences cognitive thinking and behavior.
Research findings show that people exposed to odors widely accepted as
pleasant—like baked cookies or fresh coffee—were more likely to act kindly
towards others than those who were not exposed to the pleasant odors (Herz, 2002).
SCIs Frackville, Pittsburgh and Retreat volunteered to test whether
exposing inmates to pleasant odors reduces anxiety and increases productivity
and prosocial behavior.
Frackville conducted its trial in the prison’s behavior modification
unit in July 2016. Results haven’t shown
a positive effect, but officials also noticed an issue with the delivery of the
aroma. Therefore, another month of
testing will be conducted.
SCI Retreat launched a lavender/eucalyptus aromatherapy trial on September
26, 2016, in its secure residential treatment unit. The trial is presently underway and will
conclude on January 30, 2017. There are
two diffusers on the unit that dispense lavender/eucalyptus scents.
SCI Pittsburgh is in the process of developing its trial.
– ABOUT TO BEGIN
Two personal care units at SCI Waymart will
participate in a trial to determine whether the placement of fish tanks in
certain housing units reduces anxiety and increases overall well-being.
Studies suggest that environment has major effects
on people, which can alter behavior for the better and for the worse. An
unpleasant environment increases one’s stress levels, which in turn can have
negative psychological and physiological effects. Living in an isolated
environment, like prison may cause feelings of depression and anxiety that can
worsen over time, leading to a range of feelings from irritability to full
blown rage (Shaley, 2008, p. 16). In efforts to reduce levels of anxiety, which
can directly affect the safety of staff and other inmates, it is important to
address any improvements that can be made to better prison environments.
There is a lack of extensive research relating to
the benefits of aquariums; however, their appeal has been noted by divers,
aquarium visitors, documentaries and people who own their own fish tanks.
Introducing fish tanks into prison environments will add a natural component to
the confinement of the built surroundings, which may aid in providing ‘soft’
fascination for inmates, drawing their attention away from their daily
stressors. Lower anxiety levels may lead to reduced feelings of frustration and
anger that can lead to violence.
Colored Bed Linens – ABOUT TO BEGIN
be simple and mundane, with most cells having a basic, metal toilet and a bunk
bed made of metal. Colors are generally
very neutral. Studies show that inmates
undergo psychological changes as they adapt to the prison surroundings and
institutional routines. The dull palette
of prison cells can increase stress experienced by inmates, which often can
result in heightened aggravation that leads to violence. Changing the atmosphere through simple means
could reduce inmate anxiety and increase psychological wellbeing.
SCI Fayette’s pilot of this concept will begin on
October 27, 2016, and will run through December 27, 2016, after which results
will be reviewed to determine whether this should be expanded to additional
prisons for further study.
Visitor Notification Letter – ABOUT TO BEGIN
SCIs Camp Hill and Pittsburgh
SCIs Camp Hill and Pittsburgh will host trials that
study the effects of visitor notification letters. Beginning late-October or
early-November, one group of visitors will receive letters informing them only
of their addition to an inmate’s visitor’s list. The second group will receive
letters of the same and also will include documentation outlining visiting
policies and that emphasize consequences of bringing contraband onto prison
The two groups at the two prisons will be studied
to see if the number of contraband incidents occurring both in the parking lot
and during visitation, along with associated inmate misconducts, are reduced.
Soothing Sounds – ABOUT TO BEGIN
SCI Benner Township
A trial to examine the effectiveness of noise
generators on reducing misbehaviors, reducing violent assaults, and reducing
psychiatric crisis will be conducted at SCI Benner Township in units that have
both inmates with mental and behavioral issues.
One night of disrupted sleep can lead to one
feeling unrefreshed and irritable, while frequent nights of disrupted sleep can
impose poor health outcomes, impaired memory and cognitive ability, decreased
alertness and productivity, increased stress and agitation and an overall poor
quality of life.
Evidence states that “reducing sleep elicits
psychotic experiences in non-clinical individuals, and that improving sleep in
individuals with psychosis may lessen psychotic experiences. Anxiety and
depression consistently arise as (partial) mediators of the sleep and psychosis
relationship,” (Reeve, Sheaves & Freeman, 2015).
Better management of inmates’ chronic sleep
deprivation is of utmost importance in ensuring the safety of staff and other
inmates, and, in the longer run, the safety of our communities, since many
inmates will eventually be released back into society.
White noise generators have been a go-to tool for
aiding sleep. In simple terms, these sound machines mask out unwanted and
disruptive sounds with other specific sounds (Nave, n.d.). It might seem
counterintuitive to add noise to an already noisy environment; however, the
sound emitted from the generator blends with other background noise, allowing
the mind to no longer distinguish specific, disruptive sounds but instead blur
all sounds together, which allows inmates the ability to fall asleep quicker
and maintain uninterrupted sleep. The National Institution of Safety and Health
recommends that noise levels should not exceed 85 decibels for a maximum of 8
hours to reduce the risk of induced hearing loss. This recommendation has been
applied to noise machines to prevent damage to infants’ hearing.
For some, the typical static sound of a white noise
generator can be more irritating than helpful. However, other sounds such as
rain, crickets, and waves crashing can be pleasant and soothing, encouraging a
calmer atmosphere in which to fall asleep.
Introducing white noise generators into units
housing inmates with behavioral and mental problems may help to drown out the
annoying and disruptive sounds during sleeping hours for inmates trying to fall
asleep. The soothing sounds can serve as a meditating and mindfulness tool to
relax inmates’ anxiety and excessive and disruptive outbursts, resulting in an
overall calmer environment. An achieved
tranquil atmosphere can improve inmates’ quality of sleep, which may reduce
feelings of anxiety and depression, and aggressive behavior. The desired
outcome of this trial is for inmates to experience a higher level of
satisfaction of sleep quality and amount of sleep, while co-occurring a reduced
amount of misconducts.
Canine Therapy Aides – IN DEVELOPMENT
The two open dorm Intermediate Care Units (ICU) at
SCI Waymart will participate in a trial to determine whether the placement of a
dog in one of housing units reduces anxiety and/or depression and also
increases inmate compliance with mental health treatment and improves their
As with the fish tank proposal, studies suggest
that “environment” has major effects on people, which can alter behavior for
the better and for the worse.
Animals that have been introduced into other
isolated environments, such as nursing homes, have been reported to have many
beneficial results with the residents.
Introducing dogs into prison environments will add a natural component
to the confinement of the built surroundings, which may aid in providing ‘soft’
fascination for inmates and draw their attention away from their daily
stressors. Lower anxiety levels may lead to reduced feelings of frustration and
anger that can lead to violence. We are also hopeful that we will see an
improvement in interaction with peers among the inmates, increased compliance
with medication regimen, enhanced social skills, and improved compliance with recommended
“Chill Plan” - COMPLETED
SCIs Cambridge Springs and Muncy
According to a number of studies and articles,
female inmates are more prone to experience higher rates of mental health
problems, and research suggest that treatments and programs help female inmates
to reduce depression and anxiety, thus mitigating psychiatric disorders.
A concept being tested at the DOC’s two female
prisons is called a “Chill Plan.”
This strategy equips inmates with crisis management
plans as a coping mechanism that allows them to manage their emotional
breakdowns and to prevent a mental crisis from occurring.
The Chill Plan help inmates to identify triggers
and signs of escalating emotional crises and provides personalized strategies
for calming themselves before emotion completely takes over and negative
consequences ensue. Also with this information, staff can make earlier
detection of an escalating emotional crisis and prompt the personalized
The Chill Plan encourages targeted inmates to take
actions in dealing with their frustrations and negative feelings. It empowers
inmates to learn how to manage emotions preemptively with proper tools, rather
than powerlessly waiting for being disciplined after an infraction occurs.
During the trial, when a participating inmate
experiences increasing emotional response, she will inform staff and request
use of a self-managing tool listed on her “chill” plan. Staff will provide the
inmates with requested resources to an attempt to “chill.” This could include quiet time, music,
back-in-cell time or other activities that the inmate has identified as
increasing the likelihood of being able to step back and chill out. The Chill
Plan will be implemented with on-site staff’s support and suggestions.
The aim of this trial is to examine whether the
Chill Plan results in a reduction in misbehaviors by empowering
self-management. Using administrative data, the primary outcomes are the
numbers of formal and informal misconducts recorded during the 60-day trial period.
Secondary outcomes include types of infractions and inmates behavior
performance reported by staff in the housing units.
The preliminary results from the Muncy trial
indicate that another group of inmates – other than those in the DCC – may be
more appropriate to participate, so a new round of tests may take place at
Muncy in the near future.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
ribune Review (07/04/2016)
http://triblive.com/mobile/10630935-96/somerset-inmates-staff?hideHeaders=Yes Prisons to follow discipline model set by Somerset facilityBy Natalie WickmanA punishment model that has reduced the number of prison assaults at the State Correctional Institution at Somerset during a pilot phase will be expanded in July and implemented at nine other state prisons.The Swift, Certain & Fair model is designed to lessen inmate aggression by administering penalties quickly and consistently, in turn curtailing violence.
The pilot started in January in one housing unit at SCI Somerset, and in April, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections extended it for another 90 days. It will be expanded to another housing unit in July.
The Somerset prison was chosen for the pilot because of 20 assaults on the staff and 35 assaults on inmates in 2015, according to Brett Bucklen, director of research for the corrections department. Statewide, 719 assaults were reported on staff and 638 on inmates last year, he said.
From January through April, assaults at SCI Somerset dropped to three on the staff and seven on inmates, putting the prison on track to end 2016 with 21 assaults on inmates and nine assaults on staff, Bucklen said.
The pilot also has reduced stress and misconduct levels among staff and inmates, he added.
“Providing inmates with clear behavior expectations and specific consequences, which are implemented immediately in a consistent manner when they engage in such behavior, will alleviate the uncertainty and anxiety of how and when the consequence will be imposed,” said Amy Worden, press secretary for the state corrections department.
Less anxiety reduces the risk of aggression from both inmates and staff, she said.
Punishments in state prisons are decided by hearing examiners, who conduct scheduled, court-style hearings that usually involve a wait of about a week after the infraction.
The Swift, Certain & Fair model addresses nine punishable behaviors — they include lying to an employee, failure to stand for count and body punching or horseplay — and shifts the punishment duties from hearing examiners to correctional officers so they can be determined almost immediately.
SCI Somerset Superintendent Trevor Wingard stressed the importance of eliminating the delay in meting out punishment.
“If an inmate commits an infraction on Friday and then there's the weekend, maybe the examiner takes a vacation,” Wingard said. “When the inmate is punished, he might not even remember what he did.”
If all goes well with the second pilot phase, Bucklen said the program likely will become standard operating procedure at SCI Somerset. It could take a few years to fully implement, he said.
Wingard said Swift, Certain & Fair is the first program he's seen in 20 years on the job that both inmates and staff approve.
“If you've got that, I think you've hit on something,” Wingard said.
Worden said another goal of Swift, Certain & Fair is to make punishment decisions more subjective.
“The difference regarding subjectivity ... is not in who issues the sanction, but that (model) clearly designates what specific behaviors are being included and what sanctions are imposed by the unit sergeant (correctional officer) for the first through fourth infraction of those specific behaviors,” Worden said in an email. “There are no deviations from the specified sanctions.”
Those sanctions involve issuing a reprimand, giving warnings and taking away dayroom use privileges for varying time frames. Examiners have the liberty to issue other punishments that officers can't.
“Punishment doesn't need to be severe in order to work, if it is delivered swiftly and with a high degree of certainty,” Worden said. “(Swift, Certain & Fair) is all about using milder and more graduated sanctions for misbehavior.”
Bucklen said Pennsylvania is one piece of a nationwide prison violence problem, noting that Swift, Certain & Fair and similar programs are used in Ohio and Washington prisons.
An evaluation of SCI Somerset's pilot will be marketed around the country by BetaGov, a business that helps agencies, organizations and others to develop and conduct research that tests promising ideas for improving policies and practices, according to its website.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
April 16, 2016, Update:
April 13, 2016, Update:
Somerset Daily American (04/13/2016)
Prison tests new discipline method
By VICKI ROCK
The State Correctional Institution at Somerset is at the forefront of a move to reduce violence in prisons and the use of solitary confinement.
In November, Corrections Secretary John Wetzel called in correctional staff from throughout the state to a meeting on the topics.
SCI-Somerset Superintendent Trevor Wingard led a subcommittee on alternative sanctions and interventions.
“In-prison assaults, be it inmate on inmate or inmate on staff, are not a serious problem here in Somerset,” Wingard said. “But we wanted a way to address violence and segregation sentences.”
The Swift, Certain & Fair prison discipline model was already being used in parole systems throughout the nation and in prisons in Washington and Ohio.
A pilot study is being done on that model with 150 inmates in a level four unit at SCI-Somerset. Another 150 inmates are the control group. SCI-Somerset has 2,370 inmates who live in 10 housing units.
Of the housing units, only two are level four, which is a more elevated custody level because of repeated behavioral issues. Inmate infractions result in a hearing before an examiner, which could be a week after the offense. The punishment may vary depending on the examiner.
The inmates in the pilot program were given a list of nine behaviors — including failure to stand for count, failure to go to work or school, and punching someone — that would
no longer be handled by a hearing examiner.
Instead, the corrections officers in the unit issue the specified punishment, such as a reprimand and warning up to restriction to the inmate’s cell for up to five days without being moved to segregated housing.
“Most people want to know what the rules are and what will happen if they break the rules,” Wingard said. “We are giving the line staff the ability to issue discipline. This is one of the rare things, in my 22 years in corrections, that both the staff and the inmates buy into. The staff has said it increases communication and reduces their stress. Inmates and staff are asking me when it will be expanded to their units.”
Corrections officer Tracey Zimmerman, who works in the unit where the pilot study is being done, said the inmates know what punishment will result from a violation.
“I’m a little surprised that it’s working as well as it is,” she said. “It gives the inmates an incentive to stay out of restricted housing. This reduces the time that they have from violation to discipline. When I work overtime and go into different housing units, I can see the difference from what I deal with every day. Those in this unit know what’s going to happen and that it will be right away.”
Unit Manager Joseph Bianconi said the Swift, Certain & Fair prison discipline model is a great thing because it gives corrections officers the authority to impose discipline that is not subje
“It is no longer if you do this, this may happen or that may happen,” he said. “If something is done on a Friday evening of a holiday weekend, we don’t have to wait for a hearing examiner. It lets officers run their pods.”
The pilot study started Jan. 1. Before the study, 4 percent of the population of that unit had been placed in administrative segregation in restricted housing units. Since the study began that has gone down a percentage point.
Wingard said there has been less misconduct, infractions and grievances compared with the other units at the state prison. The study will be expanded to another unit in May. The longterm goal is to expand Swift, Certain & Fair to the entire prison.
There is no plan to eliminate restrictive housing units because there will always be inmates who need to be segregated from others.
The pilot study is not a cost to taxpayers, Wingard said. BetaGov, a California-based organization that provides technical research, is conducting the study along with New York University’s Marron Institute of Urban Management.
April 1, 2016, Update:
The State Correctional Institution at Somerset has taken a new
approach at managing an offender's behavior through the use of Swift, Certain
and Fair (SCF) punishment.
This began on January 1, 2016, when offenders assigned to one Custody
Level 4 general population housing unit pod were given a list of nine behaviors
that would no longer be addressed through the use of a misconduct. Instead, the
offenders assigned to this pod were informed that these behaviors would be
addressed by staff on their unit, including the corrections officers, the unit
sergeants and the unit manager. Certain behaviors would be handled through the
SCF punishment process.
In addition to the behaviors, the offenders were also informed of the
consequences of these behaviors. They were given a progressive discipline scale
that would result in sanctions ranging from "Reprimand and Warning" to "Cell
Restriction" that could be for the remainder of that day and up to the
following five days, with several steps in between. These sanctions are certain
in regards to how many times a specific behavior is observed during the last 365
90 days of review the results thus far are impressive. This SCF pod has less
misconducts, infractions and grievances compared to the other pods at SCI
Somerset. Beyond the numbers, we are also seeing positive interaction between
the unit staff and offenders. The unit staff report their stress levels have
decreased since inception of the pilot, while experiencing an increased sense of
security in their working environment. Based on the overall early positive
results, SCI Somerset has been granted approval to extend the pilot for another
90 days and to begin another SCF pilot on another pod in the facility. --
Superintendent Trevor Wingard
March 15, 2016, Update:
OF URBAN MANAGEMENT RECIPIENT OF $327,670 GRANT FROM THE LAURA AND JOHN ARNOLD
FOUNDATION TO DEVELOP AND TEST A PRISON DISCIPLINE MODEL ALTERNATIVE TO
Swift-Certain-Fair discipline program
and randomized controlled trial will provide an evidence base for prison safety
and a blueprint for implementation in other jurisdictions nationwide
(March 15, 2016) NEW YORK, NEW YORK –
New York University announced today that the Marron Institute of Urban
Management is the recipient of a $327,670 grant from the Laura and John Arnold
Foundation for developing a Swift-Certain-Fair (SCF) prison discipline model
that provides alternatives to the restrictive housing of inmates in
Pennsylvania state prisons. NYU will use the award to conduct a randomized
controlled trial evaluating the model’s impact on inmate infractions and
safety, with an eye towards informing national prison practice.
The overuse of solitary confinement is
a national problem affecting most correctional facilities. As of 2005, there
were 81,000 inmates in solitary confinement in the United States. Isolating
people for long periods of time can be cruel and psychologically damaging, and
is often used to punish inmates for minor rule violations. In Pennsylvania, 85%
of inmates are sent to solitary confinement because of “failure to obey an
SCF is an approach within corrections
that employs close monitoring and swift, certain, and modest sanctions to
reduce violations; this approach shapes behavior and fosters a sense of
fairness. A growing body of evidence addresses the efficacy of SCF programs.
Started in 2004, Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE), was
the first large-scale SCF program to demonstrate success in a randomized
controlled trial. HOPE and similar SCF programs are now implemented in
After successful integration into
probation, parole, and pre-trial decision-making procedures, the SCF model is
now being applied in prison custody in Washington and Ohio, with the goal of reducing
the number of violations that lead to placements in restrictive housing,
reducing the duration of stay in restrictive housing, and offering a pathway to
successful reintegration back into general population. Both states have
observed improved behavior (reductions in the use of restricted housing and
reductions in lost good time) since implementing SCF in custody, but these
results have not been formally documented or experimentally evaluated.
Researchers at the Crime and Justice
program in NYU's Marron Institute of Urban Management will work with staff and
prisoners in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to develop and test
prison discipline systems incorporating SCF principles. After the initial
development and testing phase is complete at Pennsylvania’s Somerset State
Correctional Institution (SCI), the intervention will be subjected to
rigorous experimental testing. The program will be designed based on input from
inmates, corrections staff, and administrators to thoroughly understand the
nature of the restrictive housing problem at SCI and determine the most potent
and fair sanctions and rewards.
Inmate violators will be subjected to a
progressive disciplinary process and offered services to help them prepare for
successful reentry into the general prison population. The graduated sanctions
may include loss of personal property, loss of phone privileges, controlled
movement, and behavioral reinforcers such as removing personal tennis shoe
privileges for a week.
Violating inmates can participate in
voluntary substance abuse and other cognitive programming to reduce the
sanctions imposed. For inmates who are eventually moved into restrictive
housing, a Privilege Behavior Management System for incentives (access to more
social activities, including congregate meals, and playing cards and board
games) will be used to shape behavior in preparation for transitioning back
into the general prison population.
Once the sanctions and rewards matrix
is created, documented, and communicated to all parties, investigators will
pilot test the SCF model in one living unit within the SCI. The SCF model will
be studied using a randomized controlled trial by selecting individuals into
the SCF living unit or into an alternative living unit. If the implementation
proves successful, the Marron Institute will scale the SCF model within SCI and
statewide. If not, the Marron Institute will redesign the experiment and retest
it in SCI or a comparable facility.
The project will be co-directed by Dr.
Mark A. R. Kleiman, Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Crime &
Justice Program at NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management, a member of the
Committee on Law and Justice of the United States National Research Council,
and co-editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. He is an author of the
books When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment and
Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results; co-author of Drugs and Drug
Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know and Marijuana Legalization: What
Everyone Needs to Know; and editor of the Encyclopedia of Drug Policy.
"Pennsylvania has among the most
innovative and forward-thinking corrections departments in the country, and we
are excited to be working with the Department of Corrections to learn about how
to apply the swift-certain-fair approach in custody and about how it works,”
said Kleiman. “Instead of starting with a fixed program embodied in a manual,
we are starting with a set of principles and helping the agency adapt those principles
to conditions on the ground and then test the resulting program or programs in
randomized controlled trials. If this approach works in SCI Somerset, we'll try
to expand it statewide. If that works, Pennsylvania can show the way
Dr. Angela Hawken, Associate Professor
of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, will co-direct all aspects of the
project including leading initial site visits, approving program design, and
overseeing implementation and evaluation. She directs the Swift, Certain, and
Fair Resource Center for the U.S.Department of Justice's (DOJ) Bureau of
Justice Assistance and is the founder and director of BetaGov, a center for
practitioner-led trials that provides tools to conduct experimental tests of
operations and policies.
About Laura and John Arnold Foundation
LJAF is a private foundation that is
working to address our nation’s most pressing and persistent challenges using
evidence-based, multi-disciplinary approaches. Its investments are currently
focused on criminal justice, education, evidence-based policy and innovation,
research integrity, and science and technology. LJAF has offices in Houston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. For
more information, please visit arnoldfoundation.org.
About NYU Marron Institute of Urban Manageme
The Marron Institute of Urban Management works to
make cities safe, healthy, mobile, and inclusive.
Marron is dedicated to working with policy makers,
officials, and residents to address pressing challenges in urban planning,
criminal justice, and environmental health.
By 2100, nearly 80% of the world’s population will
live in cities. The key to unlocking the collaborative potential of cities is
continual improvements in urban management. In a world with ever more urban
residents, better management will empower billions of people to better their
lives. Good urban management is the efficient provision of public safety,
public health, and public space. Though all cities aspire to good urban
management, a world of continuous change means that every city is a work in
Started with a gift from Donald B. Marron, the
Marron Institute partners with intergovernmental agencies, NGOs, government
agencies, think tanks, philanthropic foundations, and other academic
institutions to work on pressing urban challenges around the world. For more
information, please visit
February 24, 2016, Update:
Since the last meeting, committee members have been
working on their respective areas, some facilities have been visited to learn
more about this initiative, and others have begun piloting concepts.
In addition, the ACA had a hearing on its Ad Seg
The purpose of the Feb. 24th meeting was to help
DOC officials and committee members put their plans into action in the field.
Representatives from BetaGov -- Dr. Mark Kleiman
and Dr. Angela Hawken -- spoke to the entire group about how to put research
into action. They explained the history of incarceration and when the
population boom began (in 1975/1976). The concept of swift, certain and
fair punishment was discussed, specifically how it must be custom designed to
fit each individual facility and the importance of clear communication,
predictable punishment and transparent good will.
The rest of the meeting was spent with the individual committees working on
December 17, 2015, Update:
SCI Somerset Superintendent Trevor Wingard and his
staff hosted individuals from Ohio, who traveled to SCI Somerset to discuss
their initiatives including "Swift, Certain and Fair."
"It was a great meeting, and
we learned a lot after several hours of talking and touring,"
Superintendent Wingard said. "SCI Laurel Highlands Superintendent
Jamey Luther and I plan on taking a few of our staff to their facility (SCI Belmont)
to further the dialogue and partnership."
November 16, 2015 Update:
On Nov. 16, 2015, hundreds of DOC employees -
comprised of a variety of classifications - gathered together to begin their
work in the areas of reviewing and reducing the use of administrative
segregation (restricted housing) and violence reduction.
Corrections Secretary John Wetzel kicked off the
day’s events with an overview of the issues and why change is necessary.
"The end goal is to reduce violence in our
facilities and ultimately in our communities."
He spoke of the upcoming changes by ACA in the
definition of "administrative segregation" and about how “we should
be the authors of our own change” and not be forced to change due to outside
Secretary Wetzel spoke of statistical proof that we
overuse restricted housing and that how doing so only makes people worse and
what a vicious cycle that is.
Secretary Wetzel also stressed that he has no plans
to eliminate RHUs. There simply are individuals who need to be
segregated. But he also said that we do need to better manage our use of
He told the group, "We have the opportunity to
set the tone and pace of this national conversation based upon the work we do
here. We can reduce the use of restricted housing while reducing violence
in our prisons through good corrections practices."
~ Be the voice of good corrections and set the pace
for the rest of the country. ~
Wetzel talked about empowering
staff to make changes and to be creative. “When we do this, we get great
outcomes,” he said.
At this point of the opening remarks, the violence
reduction work done at SCI Forest was highlighted. Deputy Superintendent
Derek Oberlander talked about how the facility’s employees banded together to
do something about the violence they had been experiencing. They conducted
research and piloted a program that is showing great results. These
results were discussed and greatly impressed many in the group.
Of the work at SCI Forest, Deputy Oberlander said,
“If it’s predictable, it’s preventable.”
Following the highlight of Forest’s successful
program, Secretary Wetzel discussed “sentinel” events that have changed our
DOC’s history and operations. Key events included the 1989 SCI Camp Hill
riots, the 2009 Parole Moratorium and the recent lawsuits by the Department of
Justice and the Disability Rights Network.
“I prefer our agency to be proactive rather than
reactive, and what you are doing here is a sentinel even in our history,”
Wetzel told the group.
What’s at stake here is the safety of ourselves, of
our co-workers, of the inmates and of the public. When we make errors,
people get hurt. Our changes shouldn’t be driving by outside forces,”
“It takes courage and foresight
to make changes. Be a voice in the change.”
The committees then broke off and spent the next
several hours discussing their specific areas and setting the route for their
work that will take place over the next several months.
Following the individual committee workshops, the
entire group gathered again to report back on their initial progress and
discussed next steps.
The work will be challenging, as
a change in how things have been done for decades will take place. But
everyone has to remember that all of this is being done with a common goal –
reducing violence and making our prisons safer.
November 5, 2015, Update:
The DOC's work in the area of
reviewing administrative segregation and its use within the DOC and the DOC's
Violence Reduction Initiative continued to move forward with a meeting
held on November 16, 2015, at the DOC's Training Academy. The day began
with a group meeting and then break off into committee and subcommittee
meetings in the afternoon. The day ended with everyone convened
again for a group meeting that outlined the next steps.
Sept. 14, 2015, DOC officials gathered around the Central Office
conference table and via videoconference equipment to participate in a
discussion to address a specific issue -- Administrative Segregation and
focused on how and why administrative segregation is
used. This is an issue that’s on the horizon for all
corrections agencies – how and why administrative segregation is used. In
the PA DOC, we refer to administrative segregation as restricted housing,
restricted release list, disciplinary custody and/or administrative custody.
During the meeting,
Secretary John Wetzel said that the corrections field nationally is changing
and rather than be reactive we need to be proactive. Or, Wetzel said, as
Executive Deputy Secretary Shirley Moore Smeal often says, “Be the author of
your own change.”
In January 2016,
the American Correctional Association was expected to issue and use new
accreditation standards regarding restrictive housing, Wetzel said.
In the meantime,
Wetzel said, we need to explore how we use restricted housing and how we can do
that while also reducing violence (inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff assaults)
at the same time.
“We need to see
improved behaviors and see less incidences of violence,” Wetzel said. “We
need to use restricted housing with more precision and improve outcomes.”
At the meeting, EDS
Moore Smeal discussed the fact that the DOC partnered with the VERA Institute
of Justice on their Segregation Reduction Project to examine the department’s
use of segregation, developing strategies to safely reduce the use of
segregation through training, and making significant policy
In 2014, the VERA
group visited several of our prisons, including the restricted housing units,
and made a number of recommendations. The information was shared with the
superintendents, who in turn were asked to prioritize the recommendations.
With respect to
administrative segregation changes that will affect corrections nationally, the
regional deputy secretaries have been reviewing restricted housing cases to get
a more accurate picture of why offenders are housed there.
What are the issues
that put people in our RHUs?
the discussion it was made clear that officials want input from all
employee levels throughout the system.
make the changes, or changes will be made for us through litigation,"
Secretary Wetzel said.
“Recently, however, we have seen an
uptick in assaults.”
Wetzel said that the increase in
assaults prompted his recent creation of an employee working group that will be
tasked with further review and discuss about how to reduce the number of
assaults. The objective is to make our prisons safer for staff as well as
offenders. This effort will be known throughout the DOC as the Violence
As part of this continued review, and
using a recently-released report, the group also will continue to examine the
department’s use of administrative segregation housing.
The report, aptly titled
Time-In-Cell: The Liman-ASCA 2014 National Survey of Administrative Segregation
in Prison, was released earlier today by the Association of State Correctional
Administrators. It brings together updated information on the conditions
and numbers symptomatic of restricted housing practices through the fall of
2014. Providing the springboard from which changes can be measured, the
report uses data-driven criteria to establish methods and programs for reducing
and eliminating prolonged isolation practices nationwide.
Policies and issues addressed in the
report include those associated with time-in-cell versus time-out-of-cell,
psychological impacts of prolonged isolation, staff rotation, flexible staff
scheduling, training needs, mental health, social visits/phone calls, mental
illness, juvenile populations, and individuals with disabilities, In the
end, the objective is to create psychologically and physically safe
environments for all offenders and staff, and correctional leaders are
increasingly committed to fulfilling it.
“Our Violence Reduction Initiative
and our continued review of administrative segregation housing use will ensure
the safety of our prisons through fewer assaults,” Wetzel said. “Administrative
Segregation does have an important role in corrections and helps us to manage
our prisons. I have no plans to eliminate its use, but we should continue to
examine how and when it is best used.”
Wetzel said that when it comes to
violence, prison officials need to be proactive rather than reactive.
“Even though we are exceptional at
reacting to an incident, we need to concentrate on collecting the right
intelligence and security information and using that information wisely in
order to prevent assaults from happening in the first place … using our data to
be proactive,” Wetzel said.
Other states also have practices in
place that will be considered, such as gang reduction theories, swift and
certain sanctions for violence and group-based approaches to thwart incidents.
“The improvements and enhancements we have made over the last
few years is testament to the fact that we are committed to doing what is right
… and that includes continued review of violence statistics and the use of
administrative segregation,” Wetzel said.
With the changes
made in the delivery of mental health services and the out-of-cell time
required for certain offenders, the DOC already is experiencing a reduction in
RHU use, but we also have seen an uptick in assaults.
Our goal is to use
less segregation AND at the same time to see less assaults.
The group went on
to discuss deterrence and the use of swift and sure sanctions where misconducts
are concerned. Bucklen said that
research shows that what works is a swift and sure sanctioning rather than
brute force or simply locking up someone randomly. Sanctions should be clearly tied to the
inmate's behavior so that it is perceived as fair rather than random.
This is why this general approach to deterrence and offender management is
referred to as the "Swift, Certain and Fair" (SCF) approach.
This same concept
was applied to the State Intermediate Punishment program and has showed good
results, such as a reduction in positive drug tests. The individuals are
given clear direction of expectations and if not met, swift and graduated
sanctions that meet the infraction are issued.
- Anything longer
than 14 days
- Offenders who are
confined 22 hours per day, or more, in their cell
- And of those same
offenders, the ones who are also confined five days a week or more.
He said that it is
possible we may see a capping of time an individual can be housed in restricted
He also said, “An
inmate should NEVER go from restricted housing directly to the street.”
These are people what could end up living next to your mother.
touched on several other issues, including the DOC’s restricted release list,
in-cell programing, special facilities for higher-risk inmates, among others.
He outlined the
themes that he heard discussed, which were:
- Classifying and
identifying offenders upon reception to determine, if possible, those with a
propensity for being assaultive or to receive multiple misconducts throughout
- The need to look
at in-cell, group programs and how to keep offenders productively occupied.
- Conditions of
confinement in restricted housing, including out-of-cell time, access to
visits, telephones and use of technology.
- The possibility
that DC-ADM 801 needs to be revised.
sanctioning options, such as an ARD-type of program for use when an offender
gets his first misconduct that could result in DC time.
- Strive for
accountability, legitimacy and justice in our system
- A cultural change
from the attitude, “this is the way we’ve always done things.’’ For too long,
whenever an inmate did something wrong, we would put them in the RHU.
90-minute group problem-solving meeting afforded individuals to share a number
of concepts and ideas, the next step was to take the various concepts and
turn them into actual working sessions involving all levels of employees.
change to take place, Wetzel believed that employees on the front line needed
to be involved. And that’s what happened next.
staff were asked to identify front line employees who could help continue
the problem-solving discussions in this specific area of reducing violence
while reducing the use of administrative segregation.