Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Solitary Confinement is Never the Answer

Solitary Confinement is Never the Answer

The Unlock the Box campaign and Solitary WatchSolitary Confinement Is Never the Answer. Washington, DC: The Raben Group June 2020. 

This report by Unlock the Box campaign, based on research and analysis by Solitary Watch and presented by the Raben Group, details the significant increase and overuse of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the use of solitary confinement has increased by nearly 500 percent since the start of the pandemic, more incarcerated people are subjected to the inhumane and dangerous conditions of segregated housing, which the report argues exacerbates COVID-19’s spread in prisons, jails, and detention centers. Unlock the Box defines decarceration as “the most effective public health response” that can effectively curb the spread of COVID-19 within prisons and jails, as well as significantly reduce the U.S. death toll from the virus.  

This report includes recommendations for prisons and jails to respond effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic without the use of solitary confinement. Unlock the Box encourages facilities to: 

  1. Ensure incarcerated people have access to adequate health care facilities and that prisons and jails improve their health and sanitary conditions.  
  2. Provide rapid testing for COVID-19 for all incarcerated people and staff. 
  3. Separate incarcerated people and staff into groups based on their infection status. 
  4. For those who require temporary isolation, ensure they are monitored by medical and mental health staff and are placed in medical isolation that is distinct from punitive solitary confinementThey must have access to health care, free communication through email and phone calls, time spent outdoors, entertainment, and remote rehabilitative programming. 

Click here to view the report. 

Keywords: coronavirus, COVID-19, medical isolation, solitary confinement, administrative segregation, decarceration, Unlock the Box, Solitary Watch, Amend, healthcare.