Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Incrementalist vs. Maximalist Reform: Solitary Confinement Case Studies

Incrementalist vs. Maximalist Reform: Solitary Confinement Case Studies

Schlanger, Margo. “Incrementalist vs. Maximalist Reform: Solitary Confinement Case Studies.” Northwestern University Law Review 115, no. 1 (2020), 273-310.


This journal article published in the Northwestern University Law Review examines the merits of incrementalist and maximalist reform strategies, ultimately concluding that incrementalist reform is likely thmore impactful method to achieve solitary confinement abolition. Schlanger argues that incrementalist reform creates “reform capacity and credibility” and subsequently demonstrates that a reduction in solitary confinement use (through the implementation of reforms) doesn’t increase violent incidents or fail to protect someone who was previously assumed to need solitary confinement.  

The article further analyzes case studies of solitary confinement reform in Massachusetts and Indiana, both of which implemented incrementalist reform yet achieved distinct results. It concludes that allies are essential in achieving reform from litigation, such as the political environment in Massachusetts provided by reform-minded advocatesThis analysis reaffirms the essential role of incrementalist reform on the path to solitary confinement abolition.  

Click here to read the journal article. 


Keywords: solitary confinement, restrictive housing, administrative segregation, abolition, incremental reform, maximal reform.