Policy review: Vera reviewed each department’s policies relating to all forms of restrictive housing to understand how people are placed in such housing, the conditions there, and how they are released to other forms of housing. Vera staff also looked at policies relating to special or vulnerable populations (like people with mental illness) and relevant policies relating to the facilities’ general population (such as disciplinary procedures).a

Site visits: Project staff visited correctional facilities in each jurisdiction to understand how policies are applied in practice, the challenges staff face in their work, and the various cultures of each system. During site visits, Vera met with staff from all disciplines and levels of authority, toured the facilities, observed relevant proceedings (such as disciplinary hearings), and conducted focus groups with staff and with incarcerated people.

Data analysis: Vera analyzed administrative data from each jurisdiction to identify who was being placed in restrictive housing, the reasons they were placed there, how long they stayed, and where they went upon release from these units. To accomplish this, Vera staff requested individual-level data relating to disciplinary charges and hearings, people’s housing and movement among units while in custody, demographics, and mental health information. This data referred to all people who were in the agency’s custody during a period of time prior to the assessment. Time frames varied, depending on the start date of the partnership, the timing of any recent changes to the use of restrictive housing, and the availability of data. 

Note: Correctional data systems vary in their quality and completeness—for example, not all systems track mental health needs or gang affiliation—meaning that Vera staff were sometimes limited in the conclusions they could draw from a site’s data. At the time of the assessment, no individual-level data was available for the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center, so Vera was unable to conduct data analyses when assessing that facility.

For more detail on the methods used in each jurisdiction, refer to the technical reports.