Confronting Confinement A Report of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons

Confronting Confinement

Overview

The Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons—a national group of civic leaders, corrections administrators, scholars, advocates, police officers, religious community members, and former prisoners—authored this report following a year-long study of jail and prison conditions in the U.S. The Commission, finding high volumes of violence and abuse, offered numerous recommendations for improving safety and increasing accountability, including: 

  • Preventing violence within prisons and jails;
  • Providing better health care to incarcerated people;
  • Reducing the use of solitary confinement; and
  • Investing in external oversight.

The Commission further discussed how these changes could have a significant impact on public safety and public health. Given that 95 percent of incarcerated people will eventually return home, it is within the public interest to improve conditions of confinement to promote rehabilitation and proper reentry into society. 10 years after the release of this report, Vera is revisiting the issues addressed along with others as part of its Reimagining Prison Initiative. 

Key Takeaway

What happens inside jails and prisons does not stay inside jails and prisons. Formerly incarcerated people and corrections officers carry the effects of violence home to their families and communities. Reducing violence and improving safety and health behind bars is thus essential for the prosperity of all communities. 

Publication Highlights

  • The U.S. incarcerates more people at a higher rate than anywhere else in the world. This bleeds correctional systems of resources that could be used for rehabilitation, not punishment.

  • We cannot allow anyone who is incarcerated to be victimized by other prisoners or corrections officers. Prisons and jails are part of the justice system, not apart from it.

  • While America’s correctional facilities are less turbulent and violent than they were decades ago, steady decreases in riots and homicides do not tell us about the larger universe of less-than-deadly violence in prison. 

Key Facts

Related

The Enhanced Pre-Arraignment Screening Unit

Improving Health Services, Medical Triage, and Diversion Opportunities in Manhattan Central Booking

New York City established Pre-Arraignment Medical Screening Units (PASUs) in all boroughs’ central booking facilities, except Staten Island, as a result of a 1993 legal settlement requiring the city to establish a process for screening the health needs of people who are arrested, booked into police custody, and awaiting arraignment. Unfortunately, ...

Publication
  • David Cloud, Leah Pope, Jim Parsons, Anne Siegler, Michelle Martelle
September 20, 2017
Publication

Against the Odds

Experimenting with Alternative Forms of Bail in New York City’s Criminal Courts

Statistics show that money bail is unaffordable and out of reach for many New Yorkers. On any given day, 7,000 people are detained pretrial at Rikers Island and other New York City jails because they cannot make bail. While judges in New York can choose up to nine different forms of bail at arraignment—include “alternative” forms that require littl...

Publication
  • Insha Rahman
September 15, 2017
Publication

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