The Safe Alternatives to Segregation Resource Center provides the latest research, reports, policy briefs, and promising reforms to reduce the use of segregation—also referred to as solitary confinement, restrictive housing, or isolation—in corrections facilities around the United States. 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 safely address it.
The resource center is a product of Safe Prisons, Safe Communities: From Isolation to Dignity and Wellness Behind Bars (SPSC), a Vera Institute of Justice project launched in 2019. Through this project, Vera is working to end corrections systems’ reliance on restrictive housing by partnering with state and local corrections agencies to implement safe and effective alternative strategies.
Increasing evidence shows that the use of restrictive housing—where people are held in a cell for 22-24 hours per day with little or no programming or human interaction—is harmful to incarcerated people and correctional staff, and is counterproductive to the safety and security of prisons and jails, as well as the communities to which most incarcerated people will return. By helping corrections systems reduce and reform their use of restrictive housing, Vera further aims to improve human dignity behind bars and promote effective rehabilitation efforts for incarcerated people.
Through multiple coordinated strategies, Safe Prisons, Safe Communities is working towards two main goals:
- Ultimately, ending the use of restrictive housing in its current, traditional form in prisons and jails in the United States, moving towards correctional practice that aligns with international standards.
- Ensuring that whenever people are separated from a prison or jail’s general population, their conditions of confinement are not isolating or overly-restrictive and provide sufficient access to socialization, programming, and treatment.
Vera is currently partnering with two corrections agencies—the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections and the Washington State Department of Corrections. Vera is collaborating with these systems to design and implement innovative reforms to significantly reduce their use of restrictive housing while promoting safety and wellness for those who live and work in their institutions. The project’s overarching goals for each system are:
- Eliminating the use of restrictive housing for non-violent/low-level behavior and for particularly vulnerable populations—including youth under 18 and people with serious mental illness.
- Significantly reducing the length of time people spend in restrictive housing, moving towards a long-term goal of ending prolonged restrictive housing.
- Improving conditions in restrictive housing, including but not limited to a less isolated environment, additional out-of-cell time, opportunities for meaningful human contact, and access to programs and services.
- Addressing any racial and ethnic disparities in the system’s use of restrictive housing.
- Decreasing the agency’s total restrictive housing population by at least 20 percent by the end of the 18-month partnership, putting them on the path to reducing it by at least 50 percent in four years.
The work of this project builds on expertise Vera has developed through its work over the last several years. Reducing the overuse of restrictive housing has been a key priority of Vera’s since 2010. Through the Segregation Reduction Project (funded by the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust) and then the Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative (funded by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Wilson Trust), Vera partnered with 16 state and local corrections departments around the United States to assess their use of restrictive housing, provide recommendations for safely reducing that use, and assist with implementing reforms.