Time-In-Cell 2019: A Snapshot of Restrictive Housing based on a Nationwide Survey of U.S. Prison Systems

241 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2020

See all articles by Leann Bertsch

Leann Bertsch

North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Wayne Choinski

Association of State Correctional Administrators

Kevin Kempf

Association of State Correctional Administrators

John Baldwin

Correctional Leaders Association (CLA)

Harold Clarke

Correctional Leaders Association (CLA)

Bob Lampert

Correctional Leaders Association (CLA)

Rick Raemisch

Colorado Department of Corrections

Stephen Sinclair

Correctional Leaders Association (CLA)

Dean Williams

Correctional Leaders Association (CLA)

Judith Resnik

Yale University - Law School

Anna VanCleave

Yale University - Law School

Alexandra Harrington

University at Buffalo Law School; Yale University - Law School

Zal Shroff

Yale Law School

Jonathan Petkun

Yale University, Law School, Students; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics

Brian Highsmith

Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law; Harvard University, Department of Government

Atticus Ballesteros

Yale Law School

Jaster Francis

Yale Law School

Eli Feasley

Yale Law School

Molly Petchenik

Yale University, Law School

Jaclyn Willner

Yale Law School

Arianna Zoghi

Yale Law School

Date Written: September 17, 2020

Abstract

Time-In-Cell 2019: A Snapshot of Restrictive Housing based on a Nationwide Survey of U.S. Prison Systems is the fourth national survey of its kind co-authored by the Correctional Leaders Association (CLA), formerly known as the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA), and by the Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law at Yale Law School. The topic is “restrictive housing,” often termed “solitary confinement,” and defined as separating prisoners from the general population and holding them in cells for an average of 22 hours or more per day for 15 continuous days or more.

This report estimates that between 55,000 and 62,500 prisoners in the United States were held in restrictive housing as of the summer of 2019. Time-In-Cell 2019 is based on survey responses from thirty-nine state prison systems providing data on 825,473 prisoners. These states reported housing a total of 31,542 individuals—or 3.8% of the total prison population in those jurisdictions—in solitary confinement. Across the set of thirty-nine states, percentages of the prisoners held in isolation varied from 11% to none, as four states said they no longer keep anyone in those conditions. The length of time individuals spent in restrictive housing varied widely. In the thirty-three states that captured this information, they reported that 46% of the individuals held in solitary confinement were there for three months or less. At the other end of the spectrum, almost 3,000 people—or 11% of all the people for which statistics were provided—had been kept in solitary confinement for more than three years.

Two areas of special concern are the impact of mental illness and race on placement in restrictive housing. Using their own definition of “serious mental illness,” 33 states reported a total of more than 3,000 SMI prisoners in solitary confinement. Six jurisdictions reported that more than 10% of their prisoners in solitary confinement had a serious mental illness. Aggregating the numbers from 32 states and disaggregating by gender, Black and Hispanic men were somewhat more likely to be put into restrictive housing than white men: 43% of Black men and 17% of Hispanic men were in restrictive housing, compared to 40% and 15% respectively in the total male custodial population. Black women were much more likely to be placed in isolation: 42% of women reported to be in solitary confinement were Black, as compared to 22% of the total female custodial population.

The report also provides an overview of litigation, legislation, and policy developments regarding the use of restrictive housing since 2018 both within and beyond the United States. Many of these changes focus on limiting the use of isolation for pregnant women, juveniles, and seriously mentally ill individuals.

Time-In-Cell 2019 compares the responses of the 33 prison systems that answered the CLA-Liman surveys in 2015, 2017, and 2019. See ASCA-Liman, Reforming Restrictive Housing: The 2018 ASCA-Liman Nationwide Survey of Time-in-Cell, SSRN No. 3264350; ASCA-Liman, Aiming to Reduce Time-in-Cell (Nov. 2016), SSRN No. 2874492. Comparing percentages of prisoners held in restrictive housing in the 33 jurisdictions reporting during the last five years, the median was 4.9% in 2016; 4.0% in 2018, and 3.4% in 2019.

The data in this report was collected before COVID-19, which in the future will introduce complicated questions about what distinguishes restrictive housing conditions from medical quarantine. These topics must be addressed by further research.

Keywords: prisons, corrections, correctional administration, correctional management, penology, solitary confinement, restrictive housing, administrative segregation, disciplinary segregation, prison administration, prison reform, corrections reform, constitutional law, international law, legislation, policy

Suggested Citation

Bertsch, Leann and Choinski, Wayne and Kempf, Kevin and Baldwin, John and Clarke, Harold and Lampert, Bob and Raemisch, Rick and Sinclair, Stephen and Williams, Dean and Resnik, Judith and VanCleave, Anna and Harrington, Alexandra and Shroff, Zal and Petkun, Jonathan and Petkun, Jonathan and Highsmith, Brian and Highsmith, Brian and Ballesteros, Atticus and Francis, Jaster and Feasley, Eli and Petchenik, Molly and Willner, Jaclyn and Zoghi, Arianna, Time-In-Cell 2019: A Snapshot of Restrictive Housing based on a Nationwide Survey of U.S. Prison Systems (September 17, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3694548 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3694548

Leann Bertsch

North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ( email )

3100 Railroad Avenue
P.O. Box 1898
Bismarck, ND 58502
United States

Wayne Choinski

Association of State Correctional Administrators ( email )

Kevin Kempf

Association of State Correctional Administrators ( email )

John Baldwin

Correctional Leaders Association (CLA)

United States

Harold Clarke

Correctional Leaders Association (CLA)

United States

Bob Lampert

Correctional Leaders Association (CLA)

United States

Rick Raemisch

Colorado Department of Corrections ( email )

1250 Academy Park Loop
Colorado Springs, CO 80910
United States

Stephen Sinclair

Correctional Leaders Association (CLA)

United States

Dean Williams

Correctional Leaders Association (CLA)

United States

Judith Resnik (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
203-432-1447 (Phone)
203-432-1719 (Fax)

Anna VanCleave

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

Alexandra Harrington

University at Buffalo Law School ( email )

School of Law
528 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States

Yale University - Law School ( email )

Zal Shroff

Yale Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06510
United States
203 436-3532 (Phone)

Jonathan Petkun

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

Yale University, Law School, Students ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

Brian Highsmith

Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

Harvard University, Department of Government ( email )

MA
United States

Atticus Ballesteros

Yale Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06510
United States

Jaster Francis

Yale Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06510
United States

Eli Feasley

Yale Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06510
United States

Molly Petchenik

Yale University, Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

Jaclyn Willner

Yale Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06510
United States

Arianna Zoghi

Yale Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06510
United States

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