Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Blog: Non-traditional Allies Reforming Restrictive Housing in Utah

Blog: Non-traditional Allies Reforming Restrictive Housing in Utah

By Rollin Cook, Executive Director of Utah Department of Corrections, Aaron Kinikini, attorney at Disability Law Center, Anna Thomas, former American Civil Liberties Union public policy advocate, and Byron Kline, Senior Program Associate at Vera Institute of Justice

April 26, 2018


“Individual commitment to a group effort, that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi


When it comes to restrictive housing (also known as solitary confinement and segregation) there is undeniable evidence of its damaging effects, but no evidence that the practice actually makes prisons safer.  So, it is no surprise that support for greater safety inside prisons comes from both inside and outside the world of corrections.  In the case of restrictive housing reform in Utah, what is surprising is that traditional adversaries like the Utah Department of Corrections (UDC)—one of five corrections agencies partnering with Vera on the Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative—along with Utah’s Disability Law Center (DLC), and the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah (ACLU), now find themselves working together as allies in partnership to help implement safe alternatives to segregation in Utah prisons.

Recently, Vera’s Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative (SAS) team surveyed Rollin Cook, Director of UDC, Aaron Kinikini, DLC Legal Director, and Anna Thomas (formerly of Utah’s ACLU) about the evolution of this unique alliance in Utah.  Their responses provide valuable insight into how other corrections systems can develop and expand collaborative partnerships with local advocacy groups and other external stakeholders.

—Aaron Kinikini, DLC