About Us

Learn about the Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative

Safe Alternatives
to Segregation
Initiative

Segregated housing in prisons and jails—also commonly known as solitary confinement, restricted housing, or isolation—is a growing fiscal, safety, and human rights concern for corrections departments in the United States. The Safe Alternatives to Segregation (SAS) Initiative of the Center on Sentencing and Corrections (CSC) at the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) is partnering with five state and local corrections systems to significantly reduce the use of segregated housing through the advancement of safe and effective alternatives. Through the online Safe Alternatives to Segregation Resource Center, Vera provides the latest research, reports, policy briefs, and information on promising reforms already being implemented in jurisdictions nationwide. These resources aim to inform corrections officials, policymakers, advocates, the media, and the general public about the current use of segregation in the U.S., its impacts, and what can be done to address it. Through the resource center, Vera also offers limited technical assistance to additional jurisdictions upon request.

The SAS Initiative is providing technical assistance to state corrections departments in Nebraska, North Carolina, and Oregon, and local departments in Middlesex County, New Jersey, and New York City. These sites were selected through a competitive application process that was open to all state and local jurisdictions. In partnership with these sites, Vera is performing a full review of the corrections departments' policies and practices and conducting data analysis to determine the drivers and characteristics of incarcerated people in segregation. Vera will provide recommendations on policy and practice changes that can safely and effectively reduce the use of segregated housing across the systems and will help implement these recommendations.

The work of the SAS Initiative builds on the expertise Vera has developed through CSC's Segregation Reduction Project, which launched in 2010 and has worked with the state departments of corrections in Illinois, Maryland, Washington, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. It is supported in part by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice and Vera's Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust publication series.

The SAS Initiative is fortunate to have the guidance of an advisory council comprising practitioners from state and local corrections systems that have successfully reduced their reliance on segregated housing as well as other experts in corrections management, criminal justice policy, mental health, and special populations. Practitioners have also been paired with selected sites to serve as peer mentors in the sites' efforts to reduce their use of segregated housing. Advisory council members also advise Vera on technical assistance priorities, best practices, and the development of trainings and publications.

Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative Staff

photo of Navena Chaitoo

Navena Chaitoo

Research Analyst, Center on Sentencing and Corrections
photo of Kathleen Culhane

Kathleen Culhane

Program Associate, Center on Sentencing and Corrections
photo of Léon Digard

Léon Digard

Senior Research Associate, Center on Sentencing and Corrections
photo of Lauren Galarza

Lauren Galarza

Program Associate, Center on Sentencing and Corrections
photo of Allison Hastings

Allison Hastings

Senior Program Associate, Center on Sentencing and Corrections
photo of Byron Kline

Byron Kline

Senior Program Associate, Center on Sentencing and Corrections
photo of Jessi LaChance

Jessi LaChance

Research Analyst, Center on Sentencing and Corrections
photo of Fred Patrick

Fred Patrick

Director, Center on Sentencing and Corrections
photo of Stephen Roberts

Stephen Roberts

Research Associate, Center on Sentencing and Corrections
photo of Lionel Smith

Lionel Smith

Research Associate, Center on Sentencing and Corrections
photo of Sara Sullivan

Sara Sullivan

Project Manager, SAS Initiative, Center on Sentencing and Corrections
photo of Elena Vanko

Elena Vanko

Program Associate, Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Advisory Council

photo of Robert B. Greifinger, MD

Robert B. Greifinger, MD

Correctional Health Care Consultant
photo of Craig Haney, PHD

Craig Haney, PHD

Professor of Psychology, University of California Santa Cruz
photo of Jörg Jesse

Jörg Jesse

Director General, Ministry of Justice, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany
photo of Mitch Lucas

Mitch Lucas

Assistant Sheriff, Charleston County, SC
photo of Gregg Marcantel

Gregg Marcantel

Secretary, New Mexico Corrections Department
photo of Laura Markle Downton

Laura Markle Downton

Director, U.S. Prisons Policy, National Religious Campaign Against Torture
photo of Richard J. McCarthy

Richard J. McCarthy

Assistant Superintendent, Hampden County Correctional Center, MA
photo of Gary C. Mohr

Gary C. Mohr

Director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
photo of Shirley R. Moore Smeal

Shirley R. Moore Smeal

Executive Deputy Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
photo of Danny Murillo

Danny Murillo

Soros Justice Advocacy Fellow
photo of Barbara Owen, PhD

Barbara Owen, PhD

Professor Emerita of Criminology, California State University Fresno
photo of Rick Raemisch

Rick Raemisch

Executive Director, Colorado Department of Corrections
photo of Matthew L. Rivera

Matthew L. Rivera

Jail Administration Consultant, Bernalillo County, NM
photo of Bernard Warner

Bernard Warner

Former Secretary, Washington Department of Corrections
photo of Melvin H. Wilson

Melvin H. Wilson

Manager, Dept. of Social Justice and Human Rights, National Association of Social Workers
photo of Nicholas Turner

Nicholas Turner

President and Director, Vera Institute of Justice

Sites

  • Louisiana

    Louisiana

    The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DOC) is the state agency responsible for custody and supervision of state-sentenced individuals. The department houses approximately 18,750 individuals in seven facilities. In addition to this, about 18,300 DOC individuals are housed in local facilities and roughly 2,900 are assigned to Transitional Work Programs. The DOC is actively engaged in its quest to reduce its use of restrictive housing and develop other correctional reforms affecting staff and local communities alike.

    James M. Le Blanc has been secretary of the DOC since 2008. Secretary Le Blanc has devoted his life to the corrections profession in Louisiana for over 40 years. With renewed interest in criminal justice reform from the new governor, a justice reinvestment task force was created and is chaired by Secretary Le Blanc to study sentencing reform, conditions of confinement, and programming among other aspects of corrections in general. The task force is comprised of a bipartisan group of legislators, judges, law enforcement, and advocacy and religious groups.

    "We are honored that we have been chosen to participate in the Vera Institute's Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative, supported by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Our selection speaks to our own progress as we have already taken internal steps towards reforming the department's restrictive housing policy based on current best practices. Vera's assistance will aid us in further examining and improving our restrictive housing policies and developing new approaches to effectively managing inmate behavior." – James M. Le Blanc, Secretary, Louisiana Department of Corrections

  • Minnesota

    Minnesota

    The Minnesota Department of Corrections (MDOC) has been a leader in promoting offender change through treatment, education, and employment programming in all ten of its facilities. With responsibility for over 10,000 individuals incarcerated throughout the state, and another 20,000 under community supervision, the department works to ensure the safety and security of all staff and offenders. Commissioner Tom Roy has led the department since 2011, and under his leadership the department has consistently innovated its practices through systematic research and training of staff and management. Recent new efforts to reduce the use of segregation have created a departmental momentum to ensure that only offenders who present a danger to others are placed in restrictive housing and only as long as necessary.


    "We are very pleased to be selected to be part of the Vera Institute's Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative. Vera's expertise in the area of restrictive housing will give much value to the work we have already started. We always seek resources to improve ourselves, especially with this challenging population. The national interest in this topic will continue and we are even more optimistic with the signing of the 21st Century Cures Act by President Obama, addressing criminal justice reform measures related to mental health. Vera has had a significant influence in the area of criminal justice for many decades, and we are excited to be partnering in this important work." –Tom Roy, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Corrections.

  • Nevada

    Nevada

    The Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) is responsible for the care, custody, and supervision of people in the state's prison facilities. NDOC currently houses almost 14,000 individuals in 18 different correctional institutions, camps, and centers. NDOC's new director, James Dzurenda, was appointed by Nevada's governor to affect an atmosphere of change focused on rehabilitation, humane treatment of incarcerated individuals, and reducing recidivism. In addition, Director Dzurenda is working with a core team of NDOC staff members to develop statewide restrictive housing policy and coordinate opportunities for external community partners to provide input and ensure statewide collaboration.

    As Nevada works to improve public safety throughout its correctional facilities, NDOC is committed to working with the Vera Institute of Justice to assess and safely reduce their use of segregation.

    "With Vera's assistance, Nevada will be better equipped to both reduce reliance on segregation and improve the way it is used, with the goal of preparing inmates for success when they return to their communities. This opportunity is directly in line with the mission of the department, will encourage positive development and needed reform, and will boost safety inside and outside the prison walls." – James Dzurenda, Director, Nevada Department of Corrections

  • Utah

    Utah

    The Utah Department of Corrections (UDOC) oversees the supervision and custody of people incarcerated in the state's prisons. UDOC operates two state prison facilities that house approximately 1,500 and 3,800 people, respectively. The state also contracts with 20 county jails throughout Utah to house an additional 1,500 individuals.

    Rollin E. Cook was appointed as the department's executive director in April 2013. As head of the department, Cook leads the prison system, probation and parole, and programming related to rehabilitation. Prior to his appointment, Cook served in Salt Lake County's corrections system for 23 years and has worked with the local, national, and international law-enforcement community through participation in committees and associations.

    Executive Director Cook and the UDOC are committed to working with the Vera Institute of Justice to study its use of segregation, find safe housing alternatives, and improve behavioral and health outcomes for people in restrictive housing by providing them with opportunities for education and mental health treatment.

    "The Utah Department of Corrections is proud to be among the states selected for technical assistance from Vera to advance our efforts to use less restrictive housing through a structured program. Over the past 18 months, Utah has significantly reduced our percentage of people in restricted housing and has provided them with opportunities for education, mental health treatment, and other programs in a safe and secure setting. We are dedicated to improving these efforts and look forward to working with Vera to enhance our practices and learn from their expertise." – Rollin Cook. Executive Director, Utah Department of Corrections

  • Virginia

    Virginia

    The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) is responsible for the care, custody, and supervision of people in the state's prison facilities. VADOC is comprised of 41 facilities including major institutions, field units, and work centers housing more than 30,000 individuals. In 2011, VADOC identified a crucial need to reduce the number of individuals in restrictive housing and to address the needs of individuals released directly to the community from this setting. These goals became part of VADOC's ongoing priorities to advance its focus on evidence-based practices, effective reentry, safety, and security.

    Harold W. Clarke was appointed to director of the VADOC in November 2010. Director Clarke has more than 40 years of correctional experience and has since become a recognized change agent for corrections and champion of offender reentry efforts. Director Clarke was challenged to implement reform efforts to improve offender reentry and reduce recidivism when he was brought to Virginia. Upon arriving at VADOC, Director Clarke recognized that a cultural shift to balance the traditional command-and-control model prevalent in correctional systems with more progressive evidence-based decision making was needed in the department in order to meet the challenge.

    "Since 2011, the Virginia Department of Corrections has made significant progress in reducing the use of restrictive housing. While we are pleased with the progress we have made, including recognition by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Council of State Government's Southern Legislative Conference, we also know that there is more work to be done. We are delighted to be selected for this initiative and we welcome the opportunity to learn and share ideas with Vera and the participating departments." – Harold Clarke, Director, Virginia Department of Corrections

  • Nebraska

    Nebraska

    The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) is the state agency responsible for custody and supervision of state-sentenced individuals. NDCS operates 10 facilities and manages 5,227 inmates (as of January 1, 2015), representing 159 percent of the design capacity of 3,283. NDCS is led by Director Scott Frakes, who has over 30 years of experience in corrections and was previously the deputy director of the Washington Department of Corrections.

    Nebraska, under the leadership of a new director and with guidance from the state legislature, is in the process of reforming their criminal justice system and their use of segregation, known as restrictive housing. Nebraska has passed several bills as part of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which will work to prevent overcrowding in the state prison system. They have also passed a law that proscribes the use of restrictive housing and establishes a workgroup to help with its reform.

    Director Frakes and the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services are very committed and pleased to work with the Vera Institute of Justice to assess and safely reduce their use of segregation.

     

    "Nebraska's selection ... will ensure the state's department of correctional services' restrictive housing reforms are focused, effective, and research-based. The department is excited about getting the project underway and looking forward to the results enjoyed by other state correctional systems."

    – Scott Frakes, director, Nebraska Department of Correctional Services

  • New York City, New York

    New York City, New York

    The New York City Department of Correction (DOC) provides for the care, custody, and control of persons accused of crimes or convicted and sentenced to one year or less of jail time. The department manages 15 facilities, 10 of which are located on Rikers Island. In addition, the department operates two hospital prison wards (Bellevue and Elmhurst hospitals) and court holding facilities in criminal, supreme, and family court in each borough. In FY 2015, the department handled 67,672 admissions each year and managed an average daily population of 10,240 incarcerated people.

    Joseph Ponte was appointed commissioner of the department in April 2014 and brings with him 40 years of corrections experience. Since joining the department, the commissioner's primary focus has been on reducing violence. He is reforming how the department manages incarcerated people, with the goals of reducing violence, reducing the department's overreliance on punitive segregation, reducing the unnecessary use of force, and improving services for the mentally ill.

     

    "We are honored to be chosen to participate in the Vera Institute of Justice's Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative....Our selection speaks to our progress as DOC works to promote a culture of safety at all our facilities. DOC is committed to reducing the use of segregation and to facilitating rehabilitation. We ended punitive segregation for adolescent inmates last December, and we are working toward ending punitive segregation for 18- to 21-year-olds by next January. These reforms will promote better behavior, psychological health, and emotional well-being among our inmates and help to create safer jails for staff and inmates alike. The SAS Initiative and the technical assistance of the renowned Vera Institute [of Justice] will help DOC move these initiatives forward using best practice and help New York City return to its place at the forefront of the corrections field."

    – Joe Ponte, commissioner, New York City Department of Correction

  • North Carolina

    The North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS)'s Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice is responsible for the care, custody, and supervision of people in the state's prison facilities. NCDPS oversees 56 facilities, which house approximately 38,000 inmates. The division's commissioner, W. David Guice, has over 30 years of experience in community corrections and has served in the North Carolina House of Representatives, where he was the primary sponsor of the Justice Reinvestment Act.

    Since the signing of the Justice Reinvestment Act in 2011, North Carolina has made remarkable progress in criminal justice reform: the prison population has declined by nearly 4,000 inmates, 11 state prisons have been closed, and anyone with a felony conviction receives nine to 12 months of post-release supervision to assist with their reentry into the community.

    As NCDPS continues to explore ways to improve North Carolina's prisons, it is committed to working with the Vera Institute of Justice to reduce and reform the use of restrictive housing.

     

    "This is an opportunity for North Carolina to further examine and improve our restrictive housing policies and to develop new approaches to managing inmate behavior that will lead to positive outcomes. Intensive programming and mental health treatment will be key components to how we approach restrictive housing in the future."

    – W. David Guice, commissioner of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, North Carolina Department of Public Safety

  • Middlesex County, New Jersey

    Middlesex County, New Jersey

    The Middlesex County Office of Adult Corrections and Youth Services is the agency responsible for providing a safe and secure environment for pretrial inmates, sentenced inmates, and staff in Middlesex County, New Jersey. Its adult correction center has a capacity of 1,436 inmates, with a 2014 average daily population of 878. The facility manages 20 separate housing units with classifications that range from daily work release to full maximum administrative segregation.

    Since 2014, the Middlesex County Department of Corrections has been led by Warden Mark Cranston, who has over two and a half decades of experience in corrections. Mr. Cranston began his career as a corrections officer with the New York City Department of Correction and has served in leadership positions within New York City and the New Jersey Department of Correction. He is also a current member of the New Jersey County Jail Warden's Association.

    Middlesex County is very committed and pleased to work with the Vera Institute of Justice to safely reduce their use of segregation.

     

    "Our work with Vera will enhance our ongoing efforts to operate a safe and secure jail while providing inmates the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves. This collaboration will lead to a more thoughtful approach in the way that we manage the inmate population."

    – H. James Poloos, Middlesex County freeholder and chair of the county's Public Safety and Health Committee

  • Oregon

    Oregon

    The Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) is responsible for the care and custody of adults sentenced to prison for more than 12 months. ODOC operates 14 state prisons, which house approximately 14,600 incarcerated people. Director Colette S. Peters has led ODOC since 2012. Prior to assuming leadership of ODOC, Director Peters spent 20 years working in the public safety system, including serving as Inspector General for ODOC and director of the Oregon Youth Authority.

    ODOC is recognized nationally among correctional agencies for providing adults in custody with the cognitive, educational, and job skills needed to become productive citizens when they transition back into their communities. Due to these efforts, Oregon's recidivism rate is about 28 percent. Moreover, from working in partnership with other stakeholders to implement Oregon's Justice Reinvestment Act (House Bill 3194) to complying with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, ODOC has a proven track record of progress and reform.

    ODOC is committed to working with the Vera Institute of Justice to study its use of segregated housing, find safe housing alternatives, and create opportunities for more productive time in segregation when it is used.

     

    "The Oregon Department of Corrections recognizes that segregation is an important management tool, yet it should be a last resort and a productive form of confinement. We are pleased to receive this technical assistance from Vera, and look forward to advancing our safe and effective solutions to managing all special populations of our adults in custody."

    – Colette S. Peters, director, Oregon Department of Corrections