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.