Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Report on John Jay College Colloquium

Report on John Jay College Colloquium

“Solitary Confinement: Report on a Colloquium to further a National Consensus on Ending the Over-Use of Extreme Isolation in Prisons.” New York, NY: John Jay College of Criminal Justice, September 30 – October 1, 2015.

“With support from the Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation, on September 30, 2015, John Jay College of Criminal Justice convened a colloquium including 15 corrections agency heads and a like number of attorneys, academics, and experts from the community of those seeking to reform the use of social isolation, often called ‘solitary confinement,’ in U.S. prisons and jails.

The purpose of the Colloquium was to determine if consensus might be achievable about ways to reform the use of social isolation by coming to common agreement rather than resorting to litigation.… The result was a remarkable two-day experience that generated a great deal of argument and debate, as well as an equally exciting degree of agreement and consensus…. An energized group emerged from the meeting united in the belief that the United States can do better to both limit how it employs extreme social isolation and to ameliorate many of the most damaging results from its overuse.”

As a result, several clear themes and areas of agreement became apparent, including, among others:

– “The only criterion for confining a person to social isolation within prison should be behavior; persons should not be confined based upon their affiliation or status.”

– “If isolation is used at all, a person should be separated from the general population for the least amount of time necessary and under the least restrictive conditions.”

– “Separation from general population must always provide for adequate living conditions, meaningful routine, and periodic medical and mental health assessments.”

– “The use of isolated confinement should be a last resort, and prison discipline should develop alternatives to isolated confinement as punishment, incorporating a continuum of measures to hold incarcerated persons proportionately accountable for their behavior.”

– “The purpose of isolated confinement must be to improve the outcome for the affected individual and to make the prison and the community safer. To that end, there must be meaningful interventions designed to address the reasons for the confinement and attainable means for the individual to transition back to the general population of the prison.”

– “Corrections administrators and advocates for incarcerated persons must work together to obtain political and financial support for needed changes.”

This report outlines the discussions that took place at the colloquium—in work groups and following presentations to the group—and then details 24 recommendations regarding the use of segregation, “which can serve as a roadmap for reform.”


NOTE: Appendices to the report contain the slides from presentations made during the colloquium:

– Presentation by Bernie Warner, Secretary of Corrections, State of Washington

– Presentation by Joe Ponte, Commissioner of Correction, State of New York

– Presentation by Rick Raemisch, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Corrections