Rethinking Restrictive Housing: Lessons from Five U.S. Jail and Prison Systems

Vera Institute of Justice LogoThis publication from the Vera Institute of Justice’s Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative highlights findings on how five corrections agencies across the country use restrictive housing. In recent years, the practice of restrictive housing (otherwise known as solitary confinement or segregation) in U.S. prisons and jails has been the subject of increased scrutiny from researchers, advocates, policymakers, media, and the government agencies responsible for people who are incarcerated.

Originally intended to manage people who committed violence within jails and prisons, restrictive housing has become a common tool for responding to: all levels of rule violations, from minor to serious; managing challenging populations; and housing people considered vulnerable, especially those living with mental illness. A number of departments of corrections are now taking steps to reduce their reliance on restrictive housing. Through a competitive application process, Vera selected and worked with five sites—Nebraska; Oregon; North Carolina; New York City; and Middlesex, New Jersey—to study their use of restrictive housing and make recommendations for ways to reduce the practice.