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

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...

Blog Post
  • Danny Murillo
    Danny Murillo
August 01, 2016
Blog Post

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...

Blog Post
  • Dan  Pacholke
    Dan Pacholke
July 27, 2016
Blog Post

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

Achieving consensus on reform of solitary confinement

Last fall, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, with support from the Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation, convened a colloquium including 15 corrections agency heads and a like number of experts from the community of those seeking to reform the use of social isolation, often called “solitary confinement,” in U.S. prisons and jails. The pur...

Blog Post
  • Martin Horn
February 24, 2016
Blog Post

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

How the movement to end solitary confinement may shed light on how to address mass incarceration

In the United States, there are between 80,000 and 100,000 people confined to prison cellsthe size of parking spots and exposed to extreme conditions of social isolation, sensory deprivation, and idleness for days, months, years, and even decades at a time—a tally that does not include thousands of others living in similar conditions in jails, juve...

Blog Post
  • David Cloud
    David Cloud
December 16, 2015
Blog Post

Nicholas Turner Testimony on Reassessing Solitary Confinement II

The Human Rights, Fiscal, and Public Safety Consequences, to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, February 25, 2014

Written testimony of Nicholas Turner, president and director of the Vera Institute of Justice, on the human rights, fiscal, and public safety consequences of segregation (also known as solitary confinement or restricted housing) in prisons, jails, and detention centers throughout the United States submitted on February 25, 2014 to the United States...

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  • Nicholas Turner
February 25, 2014
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Michael Jacobson Testimony on Reassessing Solitary Confinement to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, June 19, 2012

Vera Institute of Justice Director Michael Jacobson submitted written testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights on the occasion of its first-ever hearing on solitary confinement, in which he describes the work of Vera’s Segregation Reduction Project (SRP). Launched in 20...

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  • Michael Jacobson
June 19, 2012
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Prisons Within Prisons

The Use of Segregation in the United States

This article, published in the Federal Sentencing Reporter (Vol. 24, No. 1, October 2011) provides a concise overview of the history and current use of segregation (also known as solitary confinement) in the United States, including disciplinary segregation, administrative segregation, protective custody, temporary confinement, and supermax (or clo...

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  • Angela Browne, Alissa Cambier, Suzanne Agha
October 01, 2011
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