Reducing the use of segregation allows prisons to provide new programs and treatment New report validates progress and makes additional recommendations
As part of its overall effort to assign new missions to prison facilities across the state, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety is working to reduce the use of segregation -- also known as solitary confinement or restrictive housing— and to improve mental health and reentry services for inmates. DPS has accepted a report by the Vera Institute of Justice that analyzes the state’s use of segregation and provides recommendations for further reducing its use. NCDPS is incorporating the report’s findings and recommendations into its continuing re-missioning work.
“In addition to making many recommendations that will help us continue reducing segregation’s use, Vera’s year-long review also validated many of the efforts and programs that we had already implemented,” said W. David Guice, Chief Deputy Secretary of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice. “These new recommendations will help us continue on the path toward a safer, more effective prison system that produces positive outcomes for inmates and decreases the chances of return to prison .”
In 2015, with funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, NCDPS partnered with the Vera Institute of Justice as part of Vera’s national Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative to reduce its reliance on segregation. North Carolina was one of five corrections systems selected in a competitive bidding process to participate in the initiative, which will soon expand to up to five additional systems.
“Vera has been pleased to partner with North Carolina since May 2015 in their efforts to safely reduce reliance on segregated housing,” said Sara Sullivan, project manager of Vera’s Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative. “We have been inspired by their commitment to understanding their use of this practice and to pursuing alternatives that are safer and more effective for people who are in prison, the staff who work there, and our larger communities. The lessons learned from the work in North Carolina will be valuable to other jurisdictions who are making changes to their own practices.”
Since 2012, the number of inmates housed in segregation in North Carolina prisons has dropped from more than 5,000 to about 2,200. That number is expected to drop even further with planned changes to the inmate disciplinary policy.
“Reducing the number of inmates in restrictive housing is the right thing to do,” said state prisons director George Solomon. “The negative effects of this type of housing have become widely known in recent years. Having fewer inmates in segregation frees up prison space and staff resources that can be redirected to providing treatment and programming that are key parts of our re-missioning efforts.”
Within the past two years, North Carolina’s prison system eliminated the use of segregation for inmates under 18 and developed a youthful offender program for those inmates. It has opened a Rehabilitative Diversion Unit to transition inmates out of segregation and four Therapeutic Diversion Units as alternatives to segregation for inmates with mental illness. Staff across the prison system have received training on communication and de-escalation tools to help limit the use of segregation. Four additional therapeutic diversion units and one more rehabilitative diversion unit are scheduled to open in 2017.
This report presents the findings of Vera’s assessment in North Carolina. Later this year, Vera will publish a summary report with findings and recommendations from all five of the jurisdictions participating in the Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative.
# # #