What Does the Proposed Legislation Do?
The Proposed Legislation sets limits on the use of restrictive housing in Maryland facilities.
What is Restrictive Housing/Solitary Confinement
Restrictive housing is any form of physical separation in which the person incarcerated is placed in a locked room or cell alone or with another person for approximately 22 hours or more out of a 24-hour period.
How many people are in restrictive housing?
Nationally, 4-5% of those incarcerated are placed in restrictive housing. According to a letter that the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services sent in 2016, on any given day 8% of the prison population is in restrictive housing (solitary). Moreover, in 2018 53% of Maryland’s state prison population was placed in restrictive housing at least once.
For how long?
According to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, there should be an absolute ban on restrictive housing for longer than 15 days. Isolation longer than 15 days is considered an act of torture. In Maryland, the average length of stay varies between 44 and 50 days depending on the type of segregation/restrictive housing.
What about re-entry?
Over the last three years (2016-2018) more than 750 people were released directly to the community, after spending an average of 60 days in restrictive housing.
What about the mentally ill?
According to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, the mentally ill should never be placed in restrictive housing.
Over three years (2016-2018) more than 550 seriously mentally ill people were placed in restrictive housing in Maryland.
What about safety?
Prisoners who pose a safety risk can be separated from the general population without being placed in restrictive housing.
Overuse of Restrictive Housing is Unsafe
When a Mississippi facility transferred a large population of segregated prisoners to the general population, statistics showed an almost 70% drop in serious incidents.
- A study of correctional systems in Illinois, Arizona, and Minnesota found that segregating some prisoners in supermax facilities did little or nothing to lower overall violence across the system.
- According to a study published by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, “States that have reduced segregation populations have found no adverse impact on institutional safety.
Restrictive Housing Is Expensive
It is three times more expensive to hold a prisoner in segregation than in the general population.
- Colorado closed a 316-bed administrative segregation facility, which was projected to save $13.6 million in FY 13-14.
- Illinois closed a supermax facility in 2013, saving about $26 million per year.
- In 2007, Mississippi saved about $5.6 million per year-without layoffs or furloughs-when it closed an entire unit after reducing use of segregation.
Restrictive Housing Hurts Prisoners, Families, and Communities
- Prisoners Suffer. Prisoners in restrictive housing have suffered physical and psychological harms, as psychosis, trauma, severe depression, serious self-injury, or suicide.
- Families Suffer. When a prisoner is in restrictive housing, s/he is often banned from getting visits and calls from family
- This not only punishes families, it breaks down the family ties that are crucial to supporting prisoners upon re-entry.
- Communities Suffer. Many prisoners are released directly from restrictive housing into the community—this poses a serious threat to public safety. During restrictive housing, prisoners often have limited opportunity to seek support from faith leaders, who may be instrumental in supporting the inmate during confinement, but also in helping him to re-enter the community safely.
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