Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Promising Practices

Step-Down Program

Agency

Hampden County Correctional Center (HCCC)

Brief Summary

The Hampden County Correctional Center (HCCC) overhauled its use of segregation with the implementation of its step-down program. The goal of the program is to move people out of segregation and back to the general population. It includes face-to-face reentry sessions with individuals to discuss the individual’s plan, expectations of the individual, and support services available for transitioning to general housing. As of January 2016, HCCC has seen a 68 percent-reduction in the number of people being held in the segregation unit and at least a 70 percent-decrease in the average length of stay on the unit.

The Goal

Provide opportunities for people to transition from segregation to the general population, cut length of stay in segregation, ensure successful reintegration back to the general population, and reduce rates of return to segregation.

The Process

The step-down program was part of a system-wide reform of disciplinary segregation at HCCC in 2008. The department put together a staff committee across security levels and facilities, including people with experience in security, classification, human services, forensics, uniform, and non-uniform. This committee initiated changes to the use of disciplinary segregation at HCCC.

The step-down program was a tool used within segregation. These practices are driven by staff evaluation and input.

The Solution

A step-down program was implemented to transition people from segregation to the general population. Since 2008, the uniformed captains of each housing unit meet weekly to develop a corrective plan for each individual in the Special Management Unit. The corrective action plan is continued once the individual steps down to general population from segregation, whether through early release or not, by staff holding a reentry session with the individual to discuss the individual’s plan, expectations of the individual, and support services available for the transition. Staff from the SMU—and from the general population unit that the person will be returning to—are both involved in the reentry session. According to the Sheriff’s Department, this face-to-face contact with the individual establishes his “buy-in” to the program and enhances his chances for successful avoidance of segregation in the future.

All incarcerated people who are housed in segregation, participate in programming, and maintain positive behavior are eligible for the step-down program. Each step is documented and inspected for completion. Progress is reviewed on a weekly basis and recommendations for early movement are made at that time.

The Results

Staff members have become more positive about working in the Special Management Unit. As of January 2016, HCCC has seen a 68 percent-reduction in the number of individuals being held in the segregation unit and at least a 70 percent-decrease in the average length of stay on the unit. Within one year of implementation, disciplinary incidents were reduced in the general population, sanitary conditions and general climate improved, and more people stayed out of segregation after completing their time in segregation. Recidivism rates have also dropped.

Lessons Learned

Staff input is the most vital component.

This Promising Practices section of the SAS Resource Center was developed as part of a collaborative effort with the Vera Institute of Justice, University of Michigan Law School, and Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights. We are also deeply grateful to the many leaders across the country who created and implemented each of the reforms cited throughout this section for their efforts to reduce the use of restrictive housing in prisons and jails across the country.

Please note that Vera and our partners do not specifically endorse the practices and policies included in this section. The Promising Practices section features segregation reforms being implemented in prisons and jails around the country. Our goal is to serve as a resource to other jail and prison systems interested in implementing similar practices and policies by highlighting those jurisdictions that report successful reforms.