Ending Mass IncarcerationBringing Dignity to Life Behind Bars

Solitary Confinement

Solitary confinement—also known as segregation, isolation and restrictive housing—is a growing safety and human rights concern across the country. Originally implemented to deal with people committing violence within prisons, segregation is now relied on heavily to manage challenging populations, house vulnerable people, and punish people for all levels of infractions, from serious to minor and nonviolent.

Vera has been working since 2005 to end its widespread use. The collective effort, involving many organizations, is making a difference. Today there’s a chorus of opposition that stretches far beyond advocates. And a growing number of corrections leaders are moving away from the use of total isolation in favor of more humane and effective strategies to achieve safe facilities for staff and the people incarcerated.

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...

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  • Matthew Lowen
    Matthew Lowen
October 23, 2017
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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...

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  • Joel  Andrade, PhD, LICSW, CCHP
    Joel Andrade, PhD, LICSW, CCHP
June 22, 2017
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Series: Addressing the Overuse of Segregation in U.S. Prisons and Jails

Why We’re Studying the Causes and Consequences of Solitary Confinement

Every day, tens of thousands of incarcerated people are held in restrictive housing (commonly known as “solitary confinement” or “segregation”) in America’s prisons and jails.  Confined to a cell no larger than a parking space for at least 23 hours a day, isolated from social interaction, and deprived of sensory stimulation, the effect on the menta...

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  • Lionel  Smith
    Lionel Smith
January 26, 2017
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Series: Addressing the Overuse of Segregation in U.S. Prisons and Jails

Gardner Fellow Danny Murillo on life after solitary

Regardless of how much time and space I put in between myself and the Security Housing Unit (SHU) in Pelican Bay State Prison, the effects of isolation will always linger. My spirit resists, resiliently, the social pathologies known to “develop in prisoners who struggle to adapt to the rigors” of isolation. The symptoms I cannot resist seem to stem...

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  • Danny Murillo
    Danny Murillo
August 01, 2016
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Series: Addressing the Overuse of Segregation in U.S. Prisons and Jails

Change is relative to where you begin

For correctional systems, governments, and advocates seeking to reform the use of segregation, the goal should be more than emptying beds. Success should be measured by impacts in engagement, interactions, and safe environments—not just bed use—to reduce use of segregation beds without seeing a corresponding rise in violence system-wide.   T...

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  • Dan  Pacholke
    Dan Pacholke
July 27, 2016
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