The Vera Institute of Justice has announced the selection of five state corrections departments to participate in an initiative aimed at reducing the use of solitary confinement.
Corrections departments in Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, Utah, and Virginia will participate in the Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative, through which the institute will work with the participating states to assess their use of solitary confinement, develop viable strategies to safely reduce it, and assist with implementing changes. The states also will receive guidance from the initiative's advisory council, which includes practitioners of corrections systems that have successfully reduced their reliance on solitary confinement, as well as experts in the mental health and correctional reform fields. The Vera Institute will release a report in 2017 detailing findings and recommendations from its work with the five jurisdictions that joined the initiative last year — including North Carolina, which has banned the use of solitary confinement for juveniles, and Nebraska, which has ended the use of solitary confinement as a punishment for all disciplinary violations.
While the use of solitary confinement is common in U.S. prisons and jails, research over the decades has underscored its harmful impact on the mental and physical health of those confined in isolation, as well as emerging concerns about the potentially harmful effects on prison staff. It also is costlier than general population housing, and there is no evidence that it improves the overall safety of detention facilities.
"With Vera's assistance, Nevada will be better equipped to both reduce reliance on segregation and improve the way it is used, with the goal of preparing inmates for success when they return to their communities," said James Dzurenda, director of the Nevada Department of Corrections. "This opportunity is directly in line with the mission of the department, will encourage positive development and needed reform, and will boost safety inside and outside the prison walls."