Center on Sentencing and Corrections

The Abandoned Legacy of Dorothea Dix

Mental Health and Solitary Confinement in Massachusetts

The Abandoned Legacy of Dorothea Dix

Harris, Jordan. “The Abandoned Legacy of Dorothea Dix.” Policy Brief. Boston, MA: Pioneer Institute, June 2016.


This policy brief, produced by the Pioneer Institute in 2016, focuses on the intersection of mental healthcare and the criminal justice system in Massachusetts. It argues that reforming Massachusetts’ solitary confinement policies and the troubled Bridgewater State Hospital—which is part of the Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC)—would help halt the trend in recent decades toward housing mentally ill individuals in prisons and jails.

The brief recommends that the DOC “develop a partnership with the Department of Mental Health [DMH] which gives DMH influence over treatment operations, wider information sharing, and cross accountability in the functions of Bridgewater State Hospital.” It also recommends, among other things, that individuals in solitary confinement receive a hearing and a mental health assessment every 15 days.


Click here to view the policy brief.


Keywords: mental health, serious mental illness, mental health care, mentally ill, psychiatric hospitals, psychiatric care, information-sharing, 15-day reviews of solitary confinement