The Department of Corrections (DOC) 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 section provides information in a timeline format of these activities.
The Beginning of the Initiative
VERA Institute of Justice: January 30, 2015
"Segregation Reduction Project Findings and Recommendations: Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Use of Segregation" (pdf)
The Liman Program, Yale Law School Association of State Correctional Administrators
"Time-In-Cell: The Liman-ASCA 2014 National Survey of Administrative Segregation in Prison" (pdf)
The Liman Project, Yale Law School Association of State Correctional Adiminstrators
"Aiming to Reduce Time-In-Cell: Reports from Correctional Systems on the Numbers of Prisoners in Restricted Housing and on the Potential of Policy Changes to Bring About Reforms" (pdf)
Month/Year Updates (from most recent to oldest)
This PDF document was initially posted on the DOC website in October 2016. It was updated in March 2017 and reposted.
Testing Concepts to Reduce Violence and Use of Restricted Housing (pdf)
DOCs Visit Somerset to Learn about Swift, Certain Fair
On 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" visit.
The 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.
“The 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.
The group was joined by SCI Somerset staff and toured several areas of the facility, focusing on the SCF units and the RHU pods.
“This was a very successful visit with some great networking and new partnerships formed,” Wingard said.
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.”
ASCA Report: November 2016 – Liman: Aiming to Reduce Time-In-Cell (pdf)
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 design.
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.
“We’re 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 individual.”
July 4, 2016
Pittsburgh Tribune Review
Prisons to follow discipline model set by Somerset facility
By Natalie Wickman
A 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
DOC Executive Deputy Secretary Shirley Moore Smeal participated in a webinar about the use of administrative segregation, along with other experts in the field.
April 13, 2016
Somerset Daily American
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 subjective.
“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 long-term 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
The State Correctional Institution at Somerset has taken a new approach at managing an inmate'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 days.
After 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
Marron Institute 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 Solitary Confinement (pdf)
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 order.”
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 twenty-eight states.
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 nationwide."
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 Management
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 progress.
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.
February 24, 2016
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 standards.
The purpose of the Feb. 24 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 their areas.
December 17, 2015
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
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 forces.
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 restricted housing.
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,” Wetzel said.
“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
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.
September 14, 2015
On 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 Violence Reduction.
The discussion 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 modifications.
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?
Throughout the discussion it was made clear that officials want input from all employee levels throughout the system.
"We either 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 Reduction Initiative.
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 housing.
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.
The discussion 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 their incarceration.
• 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.
• Consider 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.
While this 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.
For meaningful change to take place, Wetzel believed that employees on the front line needed to be involved. And that’s what happened next.
Institutional 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.