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More Than Emptying Beds: A Systems Approach to Segregation Reform

NCJ Number
Dan Pacholke; Sandy Felkey Mullins
Date Published
May 2016
16 pages
This policy brief discusses lessons learned from the Washington Department of Corrections' (WADOC) systems approach in reducing the State's use of prison housing segregation (also referred to as solitary confinement or administrative segregation).
The report notes that the reason for a systems analysis of the uses of segregation to manage prison populations is that when wrongly applied and overly used, it can adversely impact physical, psychological, and behavioral health of the inmates involved, and it may increase the risk of violence in prison facilities, as well as the risk for recidivism upon release into the community. In adopting a systems analysis of the use of inmate housing segregation, Washington State partnered with a data analyst at the initial stages of segregation reform and maintained that partnership throughout the process, so as to ensure needed data are available to measure the success of an intervention and determine what new data infrastructures are required for the future management of housing segregation. In addition, the segregation population should be analyzed to determine reasons why inmates are placed in segregation and what services, programs, and safe environments are needed to provide appropriate intervention in the least restrictive safe setting. This policy brief explains how the segregation policies developed by Washington State, based on systematic data collection and analysis, reduced the number of inmates placed in segregation without jeopardizing the safety of the general inmate population. It also improved programming for those in segregation so as to improve their behavior and reduce their threat to the safety of other inmates upon returning to the inmate general population. Staff training for the management of inmates in segregation is also discussed. 1 figure