Correctional systems are challenged in the call to reduce or eliminate the use of segregation as, to date, there has been little guidance on how to implement segregation reform while also maintaining safe prisons. The following facilities across the country are implementing innovative strategies aimed at reducing movement into segregation, treating the inmates that are there, and maximizing chances of success upon release.
Inflow: Reducing Movement into Segregation
By looking at the pathways that lead inmates to be placed in segregation, an agency can begin to deter the behavior that leads to segregation placement and identify more effective responses.
Process: Treating Inmates in Segregation
Congregate programs can mitigate the experience of solitary confinement by offering inmates a way to think about their placement, use the time to work on problem behaviors, and practice prosocial interactions with others.
Outflow: Maximizing Chances of Success After Segregation
To ensure successful reintegration back into the general prison population, inmates need to be placed in a facility or unit in which their needs can be met, where they feel safe, and where there are opportunities and programs that motivate them to engage in prosocial behaviors. This reduces the potential for victimization of inmates while lowering violence levels within the system.
Intensive Transition Program
Clallam Bay Corrections Center
Innovation: Many inmates do not respond productively to incarceration. Caught up in gang membership, violence, and continued criminal activity within the prison system, they experience increasingly tighter restrictions, progressive sanctions, higher custody levels, and further alienation from family and pro-social society.
To give these inmates the desire, confidence, and ability to break out of cycles of dysfunction, the Washington State Department of Corrections (WADOC) developed the Intensive Transition Program (ITP) in 2007. The ITP is a voluntary nine-month program in a self-contained unit housing former maximum custody inmates. The program gives inmates the opportunity to create permanent life change through supportive discipline, staged socialization, targeted integrated programming, and progressive development of self-control. The goal is for inmates to successfully progress to the least restrictive WADOC environment and establish a foundation for successful reintegration into the community, which increases public safety.
Since 2007, 300 inmates have entered the ITP, and 211 have successfully graduated. According to WADOC officials, these graduates are living proof that knowledge and self-discipline can change a life.
Reducing Anxiety in Juvenile Lifers with Virtual Realty Technology
SCI Pine Grove, Pennsylvania
Innovation: SCI Pine Grove, Pennsylvania is using virtual reality (VR) technology for juvenile lifers who are aging out of the juvenile/young adult facility. These young inmates have an opportunity to explore their new housing facility before they are moved. Moving from one prison to another is a stressful event and associated with misbehaviors as inmates externalize their unease. In order to reduce anxiety and moving-related misbehaviors, young inmates moving from one facility to another will have the opportunity to “visit” their new home using VR. Not only will they see what the facility looks like, but they can opt to tour the campus, stopping by the commissary, dining hall, medical clinic, and other locations so that they can become familiar with the facility layout, but also with specific areas of the facility.
Pinckneyville Correctional Center Alternative to Segregation Program
Pinckneyville Correctional Center, Illinois
Innovation: Pinckneyville Correctional Center officials have developed an alternative step-down unit for inmates with mental health and behavioral issues who are transitioning from segregation back into general population.
While initially designed simply to monitor this particular inmate population, the unit has grown to serve more than its intended purpose. Today, the unit maintains 52 beds filled by inmates placed on crisis watch or who are otherwise a danger to themselves. They are given more freedom and more services than they enjoyed in segregation. For example, inmates meet weekly with a mental health care professional such as a psychiatrist. They are allowed to have more property, take more frequent showers, use the telephone, exercise in the recreation yard with a small group, and if appropriate, are provided with a cellmate in an effort to improve interpersonal skills.
Overall, this step-down unit aims to provide expanded services to inmates who present with greater need or have difficulty adjusting to the correctional environment. Facility officials plan to increase programming options still further by offering group therapy and additional recreational opportunities.
Transition Pod Living Unit
Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC), Washington
Innovation: Segregated inmates can experience many difficulties when transitioning back to the general prison population or releasing into the community. Providing more opportunities for them to socialize and participate in programming as they prepare to reintegrate could help mitigate some of these problems.
To this end, the Washington State Department of Corrections (WADOC) is testing a step-down program that uses a "transition pod." Segregated inmates assigned to this form of transitional housing will have monitored socialization opportunities such as congregate meals, unstructured activities in the dayroom, and time in the recreation yard. They will also be able to walk to the pod's shower area without restraints or an escort. Facility staff will have the chance to closely observe their interactions, allowing them to make informed recommendations about risk management. WADOC will test whether the use of this transition pod results in fewer serious infractions and disciplinary actions, both while inmates are in restrictive housing and after they return to the general prison population. WADOC is also hoping to see fewer inmates return to restrictive housing after being released into the general prison population.