Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Digging Our Way Out of the Hole: The Safe Alternative to Solitary

Digging Our Way Out of the Hole: The Safe Alternative to Solitary

Bourgeois, Jeremiah. “Digging Our Way Out of the Hole: The Safe Alternative to Solitary.” The Crime Report, September 16, 2020. https://thecrimereport.org/2020/09/16/digging-our-way-out-of-the-hole-the-safe-alternative-to-solitary/.

This Crime Report article provides a firsthand account of conditions in restrictive housing and reasons for which a corrections department might place an incarcerated person there. The author, Jeremiah Bourgeois, spent 27 years incarcerated by the Washington Department of Corrections—seven of which were in restrictive housing. The piece highlights that placement in restrictive housing is often in response to nonviolent infractions that violate facility rules, which govern everything from movement throughout a facility to what property people can have.

The piece notes the progress the Washington DOC has made in restrictive housing reforms by creating transition units and new programming, establishing incentives programs with input from the incarcerated population, and entering a partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice to further reforms. But it also notes the long road ahead to effect agency-wide change. Bourgeois highlights promising alternatives to segregation that do not center around punishment and instead use positive reinforcement. He cites examples from North Dakota and Norway, such as the principle of dynamic security—maintaining facility order by establishing bonds between staff and incarcerated people to enhance security.

Click here to view the article.

Keywords: reforms, Nordic, Europe, disciplinary, sanction, infractions, administrative segregation, management.