Ending Mass Incarceration

Bringing Dignity to Life Behind Bars

With few exceptions, American jails and prisons are dehumanizing environments. For incarcerated men and women—95% of whom will return home—the possibility of rehabilitation is undermined by the brutality and monotony of life behind bars. High recidivism rates suggest the model isn’t working. The environments are punishing for staff as well. 

Downsizing prisons and jails is not enough. They must be healthy places to live and work, places that affirm fundamental human rights, and where the possibility for personal transformation is a reality. Getting there requires commitment, imagination, and close partnerships with corrections administrators and others eager for change. Our work includes ending the widespread use of solitary confinement, protecting people from sexual assault, exploring ways to better connect people who are incarcerated with their families,  and expanding access to higher education in prison. It also draws on lessons from countries that take a much less punitive approach to confinement with far better results.

Related Work

Photo Credit: CBS / 60 Minutes

Series: Addressing the Overuse of Segregation in U.S. Prisons and Jails

Oprah Spotlights Solitary Confinement as Movement to Rethink its Use Picks Up Steam

Two members of the SAS Initiative Advisory Council, Dr. Craig Haney and Danny Murillo, are prominently featured in Winfrey’s report. Both Murillo and Haney speak to the trauma of long-term restrictive housing, and both also have intimate knowledge of the impacts of solitary confinement at Pelican Bay—Dr. Haney as a social psychologist, and Danny Mu...

Blog Post
  • Matthew Lowen
    Matthew Lowen
October 23, 2017
Blog Post

Closing the Distance

The Impact of Video Visits on Washington State Prisons

For people who are incarcerated, separation from family and friends is a difficult fact of life, as are the financial and logistical barriers that keep their loved ones from visiting them in prison. Because research has shown that contact with loved ones is a critical factor in improving outcomes for incarcerated people returning home, prison syste...

Publication
  • Léon Digard, Jessi LaChance, Jennifer Hill
August 15, 2017
Publication

Series: Addressing the Overuse of Segregation in U.S. Prisons and Jails

Mental Health Units as Alternatives to Segregation

It Can Be Done

The definition in Massachusetts also includes several other disorders: those commonly characterized by breaks with reality or perceptions of reality; developmental disability, dementia, or other cognitive disorders; or personality disorders manifested by episodes of psychosis or depression, when those disorders lead to significant functional impair...

Blog Post
  • Joel  Andrade, PhD, LICSW, CCHP
    Joel Andrade, PhD, LICSW, CCHP
June 22, 2017
Blog Post

Series: Dispatches from T.R.U.E.

Working Together Toward Community, Connection, and Comradeship in T.R.U.E.

An offender in the T.R.U.E. unit asked me, “Why do you want to participate in this program?”  I explained that I was tired of the revolving door in Corrections and the disruption it causes to the community.  They then asked, “What experiences do you have dealing with this population?” Even though there has never been a unit like this in an ...

Blog Post
  • James Vassar
June 13, 2017
Blog Post