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.
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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
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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
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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."
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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.
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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.
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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.