Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Rethinking Restrictive Housing: Lessons from Five U.S. Jail and Prison Systems

Rethinking Restrictive Housing: Lessons from Five U.S. Jail and Prison Systems

In recent years, the practice of restrictive housing (otherwise known as solitary confinement or segregation) in U.S. prisons and jails has been the subject of increased scrutiny from researchers, advocates, policymakers, media, and the government agencies responsible for people who are incarcerated. Originally intended to manage people who committed violence within jails and prisons, restrictive housing has become a common tool for responding to all levels of rule violations, from minor to serious; managing challenging populations; and housing people considered vulnerable, especially those living with mental illness.

A number of departments of corrections are now taking steps to reduce their reliance on restrictive housing. The Vera Institute of Justice partnered with five prison and jail systems—Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, New York City, and Middlesex County, NJ—to assess and safely reduce their use of restrictive housing. This report presents highlights of Vera’s findings and recommendations for employing safe, effective alternatives, and provides updates on our partners’ progress to date.

Click here to view the online report of Vera’s findings and recommendations, and updates on these agencies’ progress toward reform.

Click here to view the printable report of Vera’s findings and recommendations.


Keywords: restrictive housing, segregated housing, segregation, disciplinary segregation, administrative segregation, protective custody, segregated housing and mental health, reforms and alternatives, effects on institutional behavior, reentry, and recidivism, segregated housing in jails