Magazine article American Jails

Segregated Housing. the Next PREA

Magazine article American Jails

Segregated Housing. the Next PREA

Article excerpt

There is a storm that is strengthening on our horizon and it will pack an unbelievably hard punch for which we need to be prepared. The storm has a name, H.R.3399- Solitary Confinement Study and Reform Act of 2015, and it has been developing for a long time. This storm is remarkably similar to a previous storm named PREA, but this time we have a chance to be more prepared.

I was honored to be invited to join the advisory council of Vera's Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative (SASI), and thankful that jails would have a voice in this important work. In the first meeting, I realized that most of the focus would be on prisons. The horror stories of what happens to people who are placed in segregated housing for years and even decades-yes, I said decades-are difficult to imagine. As one could expect, many years of solitary confinement can have disastrous effects on human beings; however, as jail professionals we know that there has to be a place in jails for different types of restrictive housing. Therein lies the issue: How can we use restrictive housing to help manage inmate populations without causing unintended mental and physical health problems for the inmates, which by the way, makes them more difficult to manage? Even though it is more likely that a jail inmate will be placed in restrictive housing for hours, days or weeks, rather than years and decades as is the case in prisons, we still have an obligation to understand the emotional and psychological duress the inmate may endure.

What we first need to understand is that all types of restrictive housing will be covered by H.R. 3399. Disciplinary segregation, administrative segregation, protective custody, etc., will be covered by this bill if it becomes law. Restrictive housing assignments will be affected by the legislation if an inmate is placed in a cell by himself, with his time outside the cell limited to an hour or two each day and no interaction with other inmates. …

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