Community/Hot Topics

Do you have examples of operational procedures for segregation units? (Updated February 2015)

Jo Gustafson
posted this on November 26, 2012, 8:33 AM

Last Updated February 2015


Many corrections systems isolate certain prisoners from the general prison population; a practice known as special management confinement or segregation. The use of isolation and segregation has increased over the years, in part as a response to the rise in prison gangs and prison violence. Depending on the system, these units are identified as restricted housing (preferred), special housing, maximum control, extended control, supermax, disciplinary housing, secured housing, close custody, administrative segregation, intensive management, and administrative maximum penitentiary or unit. The following is a list of documents, guidelines, articles, and studies that examine how restricted housing units function.



Nicholas Turner Testimony on Reassessing Solitary Confinement II:  The Human Rights, Fiscal, and Public Safety Consequences, to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Turner, Nicholas. 2014

Drawing on the experience of Vera's Segregation Reduction Project, Turner recommends a series of concrete steps that jurisdictions can take now to curtail their over-reliance on this exceptionally costly and harsh form of incarceration. Turner concludes his testimony by calling on Congress to support reform by mandating and funding the collection of national data on segregation, a national study on its impact, and the development of national standards on its use.

Restrictive Status Housing Policy Guidelines 

Association of State Correctional Administrators Administrative Segregation Subcommittee. 2013

This document contains a definition of Restrictive Housing, and a list of guidelines and principles for the operation of Restrictive Housing.


Administrative Segregation, Degrees of Isolation, and Incarceration:  A National Overview of State and Federal Correctional Policies

Metcalf, Hope; et al.  A Project of the Liman Public Interest Program at Yale Law School. 2013

“This report provides an overview of state and federal policies related to long-term isolation of inmates, a practice common in the United States and one that has drawn attention in recent years from many sectors. All jurisdictions in the United States provide for some form of separation of inmates from the general population. Prison administrators see the ability to separate inmates as central to protecting the safety of both inmates and staff. Yet many correctional systems are reviewing their use of segregated confinement; as controversy surrounds this form of control, its duration, and its effects” (p. 1). Sections following an overview of findings include: criteria for placement in administrative segregation; procedures and processes for placement; periodic review; and conditions, step-down programs, visitation, and degrees of isolation.

State Departments of Corrections Segregation Survey

Association of State Correctional Administrators; Research and Best Practices Committee. 2013

ASCA conducted a survey to collect information about agency use of segregation including the segregation population, duration of stay in segregation and programs available for inmates in segregation.  This survey is a follow-up to the discussion of the Special Issues Seminar held in October 2012 in Aurora, Colorado.  Members thought it important to get the facts with regard to the extent to which segregation, as defined here, is actually being used, as opposed to claims by others as to which it is employed.  The results will help guide the work of ASCA's sub-committee on segregation, as well as ASCA as a whole, in formulating a Resolution and other communications.  For the purposes of this survey ASCA defined segregation as separating an inmate from the general population for 30 or more days in a cell, alone or with a cell partner, and having minimal out of cell time (1 Hour/day for showers and recreation).  Twenty-four agencies responded to the survey.   

Bureau of Prisons:  Improvements Needed in Bureau of Prisons' Monitoring and Evaluation of Impact of Segregated Housing

U.S. Government Accountability Office (Washington, DC). 2013

The segregated housing unit practices of the United States Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and compliance with them are reviewed. Sections comprising this report are: background to the investigation; Segregated Housing Unit population and number of cells have increased since Fiscal Year 2008; BOP’s monitoring of segregated housing policies varies by type of unit, and some facilities’ documentation is incomplete; BOP estimates that segregated housing costs more than housing inmates in the general population; BOP has not evaluated the impact of segregated housing units on institutional safety or the impacts of long-term segregation on inmates; concluding remarks; recommendations for Executive Action; and BOP comments and GAO evaluation. “GAO recommends that BOP (1) develop ADX-specific monitoring requirements; (2) develop a plan that clarifies how BOP will address documentation concerns GAO identified, through the new software program; (3) ensure that any current study to assess segregated housing also includes reviews of its impact on institutional safety; and (4) 

Out of Sight, Out of Mind:  Colorado's Continued Warehousing of Mentally Ill Prisoners in Solitary

ACLU of Colorado. 2013

“This report examines past and continued use of solitary confinement by the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) to manage mentally ill prisoners; considers the moral, fiscal, safety and legal implications of CDOC’s continued warehousing of mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement; and makes recommendations to bring Colorado’s prisons in line with modern psychiatric, correctional and legal standards” (p. 1). Sections following an executive summary include: key facts and findings; policy recommendations; introduction; background; seriously mentally ill prisoners living in isolation-- “Case Study: Descent into Madness”; discipline of mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement—“Case Study: The Tower of Power”; out-of-cell time for mentally ill prisoners; mental health staffing levels; conclusion and final recommendations; and photos of administrative segregation at CSP (Colorado State Penitentiary). “While the Residential Treatment Program was initiated in early 2013 as a means of providing intensive mental health care to prisoners with the most significant mental health needs, CDOC continues to resort to solitary confinement to manage many mentally ill prisoners” (p. 1). 027534     

Review of the Use of Segregation for ICE Detainees

U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) (Washington, DC). 2013

“This directive establishes policy and procedures for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) review of ICE detainees placed into segregated housing … Placement of detainees in segregated housing is a serious step that requires careful consideration of alternatives. Placement in segregation should occur only when necessary and in compliance with applicable detention standards. In particular, placement in administrative segregation due to a special vulnerability should be used only as a last resort and when no other viable housing options exist … Consistent with the agency's detention standards and relevant special housing policies, ICE shall take additional steps to ensure appropriate review and oversight of decisions to retain detainees in segregated housing for over 14 days, or placements in segregation for any length of time in the case of detainees for whom heightened concerns exist based on known special vulnerabilities and other factors related to the detainee's health or the risk of victimization” (p. 1). Sections of this policy cover: ICE division responsibilities; field review of detainee segregation status; facility compliance; ICE headquarters oversight and reporting regarding use of segregation; and training.  2013

An informational and educational website about supermax and maximum security prisons with a multitude of links to resources regarding supermax prisons and other maximum security  correctional facilities can be found on this website. This is an excellent resource for any questions regarding solitary confinement. 

Administrative Segregation

Colorado Department of Corrections. 2012

This administrative regulation (AR) establishes criteria and guidelines for placing offenders on administrative segregation status. Administrative segregation is an offender management process and is not used as a punitive measure" (p. 1). Procedures cover: assignment to administrative segregation; behavior warranting administrative segregation review after admission to the DOC; multi-disciplinary staffing; administrative segregation hearings and due process; offender appeal; general conditions of confinement; progressive management; administrative segregation privilege levels; level movement; monitoring and reviews; release from administrative segregation; and administrative segregation ACA standards.   

Administrative Segregation Management

Virginia Department of Corrections. 2012

This PowerPoint presentation describes the segregation reduction step-down plan at Red Onion State Prison and Wallens Ridge State Prison.   The program's goal is to develop a pathway for offenders to successfully step-down from administrative segregation to lower security levels in a way that maintains public, state and offender safety and applies the principles of evidence-based practice. 

Reassessing Solitary Confinement:  The Human Rights, Fiscal and Public Safety Consequences -- 2012

U.S. Congress. Senate Judiciary Committee. Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. 2012  

Access to the webcast of the hearing 'Reassessing Solitary Confinement: The Human Rights, Fiscal and Public Safety Consequences' can be found on this website. Copies of witness testimony from Charles Samuels, Christopher Epps, Stuart M. Andrews, Anthony Graves, Craig Haney, and Pat Nolan, and subcommittee member statements from Patrick Leahy and Dick Durban are also provided.     

Solitary 101:  An Introduction to Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons and Jails

Solitary Watch (Washington, DC).   2012

Individuals looking for a thorough introduction to the practice of solitary confinement should  view this presentation. Topics discussed include: an American  invention—a brief history of solitary confinement—Walnut Street Jail,  Eastern State Penitentiary, total isolation, Alexis de Tocqueville and Charles Dickens on solitary confinement, the Auburn System, the U.S.  Supreme Court in re Medley denounces solitary confinement, Alcatraz, the Marion Lockdown, Pelican Bay, growth of solitary, Dr. Terry Kupers on  creating madness in prisons, and the supermax  boom; a nation in lockdown—solitary confinement in the U.S.  today—solitary by the numbers, euphemisms for torture, the world in a  cell, lockdown 23/7, no way out, months/years/decades alone, art from  solitary, voices from solitary, American exceptionalism, solitary in  Europe, the psychological effects of solitary confinement, Dr, Stuart  Grassian on the symptoms of SHU Syndrome, suicide, self-mutilation,  common reasons for placement in solitary confinement, racial  disparities, vulnerable groups, isolating the mentally ill, psychiatric  “treatment,” children in solitary, immigrants in solitary, solitary at  Guantanamo, and the high costs of solitary; and unlocking the box—the rising movement against solitary  confinement—national organizations with campaigns against solitary,  prisoner hunger strikes, international agreements limiting solitary  confinement, U.N. Special Reapporteur condemns solitary, State Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, 23-Hour Fast to End 23-Hour Solitary, documenting solitary confinement, media coverage, models for change, and activism at the state level. 026997

Corrections & Mental Health:  An Update of the National Institute of Corrections

National Institute of Corrections. 2011 

In October 2010, the Colorado Department of Corrections released a research report on the impact of administrative segregation (solitary confinement) on mentally ill and non-mentally ill prisoners.  One Year Longitudinal Study of the Psychological Effects of Administrative Segregation: Introduction suggested that administrative segregation was far less harmful than they expected. Corrections & Mental Health invited O'Keefe and Klebe, the primary investigators of the report, to contribute a summary of their study. A diverse mix of top-flight national and international researchers and practitioners were also invited to comment on the report.  O'Keefe and Klebe have submitted their own responses to these commentaries. In all eight articles were solicited that describe the report's findings, identify its deficiencies and strengths, and project future responses to its findings. 

Strategic Segregation in the Modern Prison 

Dolovich, Sharon. American Criminal Law Review. v. 48 n. 1. 2011  

"In the Los Angeles County Jail—the biggest jail system in the country—officials have found a way to increase the personal security of gay men and trans women detainees without forcing them to choose between safety and community. For more than two decades, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department (the Department), which runs the County’s jail system, has been systematically separating out the gay men and trans women admitted to the L.A. County Jail (the Jail) and housing them wholly apart from GP [general population]" (p. 3). This article is provides a great description of this segregated unit, designated as K6G, and is divided into four parts: prison rape, hypermasculinity, and the feminization of victims; the origins, mechanics, and effects of Los Angeles County’s K6G Unit; K6G or not K6G—three critical perspectives—"demoralizing and dangerous"--the antisegregationist objection, drawing the line--the underinclusivity objection, and unconstitutional--the equal protection objection; and conclusion—the prospects for replication.  "[G]ay men and trans women detained in the Jail [Unit K6G] are relatively free from the sexual harassment and forced or coerced sexual conduct that can be the daily lot of sexual minorities in other men’s carceral facilities"   

Segregation:  Perils & Possibilities:  How the Hampden County Sheriff's Department Transformed It's Segregation Unit [and] Segregation Transformation:  Fact Sheet  

Hampden County Sheriff's Department. Ludlow, MA. 2009  

Information is provided about the transformational change experienced in the Segregation Unit of the Hampden County Sheriff's Department. The first document of this collection contains copies of overheads for a presentation about the Segregation Unit's change. Topics discussed include:  historic perspective; the problem; the results; segregation's purpose; philosophy, practice, and goals; corrective action plan; plan elements; corrective action plan flow; inmate segregation orientation; eligibility for segregation programs; wellness program; T is for testing; an opening to purpose; mental health; substance abuse education; education in general; employment and vocational training; earning self control by learning impulse control; central classification; segregation is still segregation; benefits to staff; preliminary results; count in segregation drops 77%; and conclusion. The Fact Sheet covers:  committee findings prompting the change; reforms; results following the change, such as a recidivism rate of 7.4% for inmates who complete segregation; and conclusion. 023639