In 2015, Vera expanded its efforts to support departments of corrections in tackling the use of restrictive housing by launching the Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative, with funding from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. Through this initiative, Vera partnered with five local and state corrections agencies to assess their policies and practices, analyze related outcomes, and provide recommendations for safely reducing the use of restrictive housing in their jails or prisons.

While Vera tailored its recommendations to each agency’s needs, many of these recommendations could be helpful in addressing the use of restrictive housing across the country. 

Vera recommends that jails and prisons use restrictive housing only

  • as a last resort; 
  • as a response to the most serious and threatening behavior; 
  • for the shortest time possible; and 
  • with the least-restrictive conditions possible. 

Vera used a competitive application process to select five corrections departments willing to address this difficult issue head-on. By reducing their use of restrictive housing, these partner sites hope to promote a culture of safety in their facilities and improve the well-being of people who live and work there.Vera Institute of Justice, “Vera Selects Five Corrections Departments for Initiative Aimed at Reducing the Use of Solitary Confinement,” press release, March 24, 2015.

Five Partner Sites Committed to Change

The five correctional agencies Vera partnered with are diverse geographically, operationally, and in terms of their size and use of restrictive housing. They include three state prison systems from around the country, one large metropolitan jail system, and one smaller local jail.

See the map below to learn about each site. The summaries describe the sites as they were when Vera encountered them at the start of the SAS Initiative in early 2015. Since this time, each agency has taken steps to address its use of restrictive housing, so the figures presented below should be considered as a baseline against which the impact of current and future efforts can be measured. See site updates for more information on each site’s reforms.

Rethinking Restrictive Housing

Five Partner Sites Committed to Change

The five correctional agencies Vera partnered with are diverse geographically, operationally, and in terms of their size and use of restrictive housing. They include three state prison systems from around the country, one large metropolitan jail system, and one smaller local jail.

See the map below to learn about each site. The summaries describe the sites as they were when Vera encountered them at the start of the SAS Initiative in early 2015. Since this time, each agency has taken steps to address its use of restrictive housing, so the figures presented below should be considered as a baseline against which the impact of current and future efforts can be measured. See Site Updates for more information on each site’s reforms.

Methodology

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Conducting this work in five very different jurisdictions has given Vera an unparalleled opportunity to describe how restrictive housing is used in a cross-section of U.S. prisons and jails. Vera found significant variations among these locations, but also many commonalities. This report provides highlights of Vera’s findings about how the systems use restrictive housing, and summarizes Vera’s common recommendations for changes in policy and practice to safely reduce that use.

This report offers a high-level overview of the project. Vera also produced detailed technical reports for each site, which interested readers should consult for further information about a specific jurisdiction.