Proposed Legislation-Restrictive Housing-Solitary Confinement State of Maryland

Proposed Legislation-Restrictive Housing-Solitary Confinement State of Maryland

Proposed Legislation-Restrictive Housing-Solitary Confinement

State of Maryland


What Does the Proposed Legislation Do?

The Proposed Legislation sets limits on the use of restrictive housing in Maryland facilities and establishes a workgroup to oversee the use of restrictive housing across the state.

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 for approximately 22 hours or more out of a 24 hour period.


Maryland Overuses and Misuses Restrictive Housing

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 2017 50% of Maryland’s prison population was placed in restrictive housing at least once.[i]

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.[ii]

In Maryland, the average length of stay varies between 30 and 50 days depending on the type of segregation/restrictive housing.

What about re-entry?

Over two years (2016-2017) more than 500 people were released directly to the community, after spending an average of 50 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 two years (2016-2017) more than 300 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.[iii]

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.”[iv]


Restrictive Housing Is Expensive

It is three times more expensive to hold a prisoner in segregation than in the general population.[i]

Colorado closed a 316-bed administrative segregation facility, which was projected to save $13.6 million in FY 13-14.[ii]

Illinois closed a supermax facility in 2013, saving about $26 million per year.[iii]

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.[iv]


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.

[ii] Interim Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. A/66/268 (August 5, 2011), paragraph 78.
[iii] Kupers et al., Beyond Supermax Administrative Segregation: Mississippi’s Experience Rethinking Prison Classification and Creating Alternative Mental Health Programs, p.7 (July 2009), available at
[iv] Federal Bureau of Prisons: Special Housing Unit Review and Assessment (December 2014). Available at
[v] Mears, Urban Institute, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Supermax Prisons 20 (2006), available
[vi] News Release, Department of Corrections, The Department of Corrections Announces the Closure of Colorado State Penitentiary II (March 19, 2012) see
[vii] Heather Rice:Close Tamms, limit use of solitary confinement, available at
[viii] Vera Institute of Justice Blog, “Mississippi DOC’s Emmitt Sparkman on Reducing the Use of Segregation in Prisons,” October 11, 2011.