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Confronting Confinement: A Report of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in American's Prisons

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2006
126 pages
The Commission on Safety and Abuse in American's Prisons, which is staffed by and funded through the Vera Institute of Justice, presents its findings and recommendations on conditions of confinement in America's prisons, prison labor and leadership, oversight and accountability, and measures of prison safety and effectiveness.
The Commission's findings show that violence remains a serious problem in America's prisons and jails and that there is sufficient information on what is causing this violence so that prevention efforts can be tailored to the causes. Still, more reliable measures of violence in prisons and jails are needed. In addition to violence, high rates of inmate illness, coupled with inadequate funding for correctional health care, are endangering inmates, staff, and the public. The findings also show that the increased use of high-security segregation is counterproductive, often causing violence among inmates and between inmates and staff, as well as contributing to reoffending after release. In the areas of labor and leadership, the Commission concluded that better safety inside prisons and jails depends on changing the institutional culture, which requires improving the education, training, and recruitment at all levels of the corrections profession. The Commission's finding regarding oversight and accountability is that most correctional facilities are not subject to external monitoring and public scrutiny. Also, internal oversight and accountability need improving. In the area of knowledge and data, uniform nationwide reporting on safety and abuse in correctional facilities is incomplete and unreliable, which impedes correctional leaders, legislators, and the public in making sound decisions regarding prisons and jails. Recommendations are offered for addressing the safety and abuse issues identified. The Commission's report is based on consultation with experts, correctional personnel, inmates and former inmates, and site visits. The Commission's inquiry began in March 2005. A list of commission witnesses and works cited