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Holly Weatherford: 913-269-9181

February 19, 2014

February 10, 2014

CONTACT Holly Weatherford: 913-269-9181

Placing more prison inmates in solitary confinement is costly, ineffective and jeopardizes the safety of correctional officers, according to testimony presented today to the Senate Judiciary Committee by Holly Weatherford, advocacy director for the ACLU of Kansas.

Weatherford spoke in opposition to SB 330, which would mandate solitary confinement for all inmates serving life, life without parole, and death penalty sentences.

Weatherford cited studies that detail the high cost of extensive use of solitary confinement, which can be two to three times higher than the cost of non-solitary confinement.  For example, Arizona spends $50,000 annually per person in solitary, compared to $20,000 for other prisoners.

Not only is solitary confinement expensive, there is little evidence that it reduces prison violence or deters future crimes.  To the contrary, the evidence suggests than in many cases the use of solitary confinement either has no impact on the rate of violent incidents or actually leads to their increase, including more violence directed at correctional staff.

Because it is costly and ineffective, a growing number of states are limiting the use of solitary confinement.  Mississippi offers a dramatic example of the consequences of such actions.   The state reduced the segregation population of one institution from 1000 to 150 and eventually closed the entire unit.  Prison officials estimate that diverting prisoners from solitary confinement under Mississippi’s new model saves about $8 million annually. At the same time, changes in the management of the solitary confinement population reduced violence levels by 70%.

“This bill is a misguided attempt to micro-manage the actions of Department of Corrections staff, which are best positioned to make case-by-case decisions about the use of solitary,” said Weatherford.  “While other states are moving away from over-use of solitary confinement, SB 330 would push Kansas in the other direction, adding significant cost to the state while quite possibly increasing prison violence.”


News coverage

Link to “Corrections secretary not keen on mandatory segregation,”Topeka Capitol-Journal, 02/11/2014