Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Safe Alternatives to Solitary Confinement: A Human Dignity Approach (recorded event)

A Human Dignity Approach

Safe Alternatives to Solitary Confinement: A Human Dignity Approach (recorded event)

EVENT – Safe Alternatives to Solitary Confinement: A Human Dignity Approach
Washington, DC, September 29, 2015.

On September 29, 2015, Vera hosted a convening in Washington, DC to leverage growing attention to the need to reduce our use of solitary confinement in jails and prisons into actionable strategies for reform. Vera President Nicholas Turner described the recent broad momentum for change, which has been raised by President Obama, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Pope Francis, as well as by the Association of State Correctional Administrators. Representatives from the Department of Justice, including Bureau of Justice Assistance Director Denise O’Donnell and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, delivered remarks about the critical work being done at the local and federal level to implement more humane and effective policies.

Reasons for Reform

NPR reporter Carrie Johnson moderated a panel of diverse perspectives that represented the experience of solitary confinement, its psychological impact, and leadership in reforming its use. Craig Haney, professor of psychology at the University of California Santa Cruz, outlined research on the adverse effects of solitary confinement on individuals subjected to it—and the lack of data about who is held in isolation. Shaka Senghor, director of innovation and strategy at #Cut50, described spending a total of seven years in solitary confinement during his 19 years of incarceration. And Rick Raemisch, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, shared new data on how the Colorado Department of Corrections was able to reduce the number of people held in solitary confinement from 1500 to fewer than 170 in just 18 months. (video below, or click here)

Thinking Outside the Box: An International Perspective

Jörg Jesse, director general of a division of Germany’s corrections system, sat down for a conversation with Maurice Chammah, staff writer at The Marshall Project. They spoke about the German approach to incarceration, with its focus on human dignity and rehabilitation, and whether it provides lessons for the United States. (video below, or click here)

Reform in Action

Sara Sullivan, who manages Vera’s work on solitary confinement, moderated a discussion about on-the-ground change strategies. Panelists included Richard McCarthy, assistant superintendent of the Hampden County Correctional Center; Bernie Warner, secretary of the Washington Department of Corrections; Gregg Marcantel, secretary of the New Mexico Corrections Department; and Rev. Ron Stief, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. (video below, or click here)

Welcome Remarks – Nicholas Turner, President and Director,
Vera Institute of Justice

Remarks – Denise O’Donnell, Director, Bureau of Justice Assistance,
U.S. Department of Justice

Remarks – Vanita Gupta, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General,
U.S. Department of Justice

Closing Remarks – Fred Patrick, Director, Center on Sentencing and Corrections,
Vera Institute of Justice