For many years, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) refused to give out information about how much solitary confinement (prolonged isolation) is used in state prisons.
During the legislative session of 2016, IAHR along with its coalition partners introduced a bill that would mandate DPSCS to report on the use of solitary confinement. According to the bill the Department had to report the following statistics:
- The total facility population;
- The number of individuals held in restrictive housing, by age, race, and ethnicity;
- The number of persons with serious mental illness held in restrictive housing;
- The definition of serious mental illness used by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services;
- The number of prisoners known to be pregnant who were held in restrictive housing;
- The average and median lengths of stay in restrictive housing;
- The reasons for which individuals were placed in restrictive housing;
- The number of incidents of death, self-harm, and attempts at self-harm by individuals held in restrictive housing;
- The number of individuals released from restrictive housing directly to the community;
- Any additional information that is important to understanding the facility’s use of restrictive housing; and
- Any changes to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Service’s policies regarding the use of restrictive housing.
The bill passed and was signed into law at the end of May 2016.
DPSCS has published two reports which come out during the first week of January. These reports have revealed that Maryland places into solitary confinement 50% of its prison population. The average length of stay was anywhere from 43 to 51 days. Over the past two years more than 500 people have been released to the community directly from solitary. Over 400 people with serious mental illness have been placed in solitary in 2016 and 2017. To read the 2017 report, click here.
Maryland is an abuser of solitary confinement. That 50% of its prison population are in solitary at least once a year is a sign of a lack of control and a lack of programs for the incarcerated.
In 2018, IAHR along with its coalition partners introduced a bill in the Maryland legislature to limit the use of solitary. The bill was drastically reduced to one sentence and was subsequently withdrawn. In 2019, IAHR plans to reintroduce a bill to put real limits on how solitary can be used in Maryland state prisons.
Juvenile Detentions in Maryland
As a result of national media coverage which highlighted the isolation and confinement of Maryland juveniles in local jails, IAHR has joined with partners to seek out alternatives for these youth which will provide programming and alternative housing.