Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Change is Possible

A Case Study of Solitary Confinement Reform in Maine

Change is Possible

Heiden, Zachary. Change is Possible: A Case Study of Solitary Confinement Reform in Maine. American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, 2013


“Over the past four decades, prisons across the country have increasingly relied on solitary confinement—isolating prisoners in small poorly-lit cells for 23-24 hours per day—as a disciplinary tool for prisoners who are difficult to manage in the general population. But research has shown that these conditions cause serious mental deterioration and illness. When these prisoners are eventually released from solitary confinement, they have difficulties integrating into the general prison population into life on the outside. Because of this, human rights advocates across the country are engaged in a campaign to reduce the use of solitary confinement and to improve conditions in solitary units and facilities.”

Maine has been one of the success stories of this effort – “the number of prisoners in solitary confinement has been cut in half; the duration of stays in Maine’s solitary units is generally now measured in days rather than weeks or months; and the treatment of prisoners in these units includes substantially more meaningful human interaction and more opportunity for rehabilitation.”

“This report documents those efforts in hopes of inspiring other prison reform advocates with Maine’s example.”


Click here to view the report.


Keywords: Maine, success stories, harmful effects, reform process, safety, alternatives, history, self-harm, step-down, disciplinary segregation, administrative segregation, legislation, safety