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Administrative Segregation, Degrees of Isolation, and Incarceration: A National Overview of State and Federal Correctional Policies

NCJ Number
Hope Metcalf; Jamelia Morgan; Samuel Oliker-Friedland; Judith Resnik; Julia Spiegel; Haran Tae; Alyssa Work; Brian Holbrook
Date Published
June 2013
64 pages
This report presents an overview of State and Federal policies related to the long-term isolation of inmates, a common practice in the United States.
The practice of inmate isolation involves separating inmates from the general prison population and restricting their participation in daily activities such as recreation, shared meals, and various inmate programs. All of the inmate isolation policies examined state that the purpose of such administrative segregation is to ensure the safety and security of inmates and staff by incapacitating inmates deemed to pose a threat to other inmates and to staff; however, at the formal policy level, most of the policies permit placement in segregation based on a wide range of rationales. This suggests that administrative segregation may be used for goals other than incapacitation. All of the policies allow for an immediate temporary placement in segregation. Some, but not all, jurisdiction provide for notice of the ground for the placement and an opportunity for a hearing before continuing an inmate's segregation beyond the temporary period. All policies provide for some form of ongoing reviews, but they vary in terms of the timing of reviews, the level of oversight, and criteria used in the reviews. Jurisdictions differ significantly in the detail provided regarding the restrictions placed upon individuals once they are in segregation; however, virtually all policies limit the opportunity for visits. The report advises that these findings should be augmented by research about how the written policies are implemented. The study was conducted in two waves of research. Working with students and faculty at Columbia Law School, policies were reviewed on the Web sites of departments of corrections and on Westlaw, as well as two policies obtained through requests under the Freedom of Information Act. Also, materials were requested from the 50 States. Extensive notes