Center on Sentencing and Corrections

U.S. D.O.J. Report and Recommendations on the Use of Restrictive Housing

U.S. D.O.J. Report and Recommendations on the Use of Restrictive Housing

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), “Report and Recommendations Concerning the Use of Restrictive Housing: Final Report.” January 2016. 

“In a July 14, 2015, speech at the NAACP National Convention, President Barack Obama announced that he had asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to conduct a review of ‘the overuse of solitary confinement across American prisons.’ The President directed that the purpose of the review be not simply to understand how, when, and why correctional systems isolate certain prisoners from the general inmate population, but also to develop strategies for reducing the use of this practice across our nation’s criminal justice system. Over the past several months, a team of senior officials at the U.S. Department of Justice met regularly to study the issue of solitary confinement—or ‘restrictive housing,’ to use the more general corrections term—and formulate policy solutions. This Report is the culmination of that review.” 

The Department of Justice concludes: “there are occasions when correctional officials have no choice but to segregate inmates from the general population, typically when it is the only way to ensure the safety of inmates, staff, and the public and the orderly operation of the facility. But as a matter of policy, we believe strongly this practice should be used rarely, applied fairly, and subjected to reasonable constraints. The Department believes that best practices include housing inmates in the least restrictive settings necessary to ensure their own safety, as well as the safety of staff, other inmates, and the public; and ensuring that restrictions on an inmate’s housing serve a specific penological purpose and are imposed for no longer than necessary to achieve that purpose. When officials determine that an inmate must be segregated from the general population, that inmate should be housed in safe, humane conditions that, ideally, prepare the individual for reintegration into both the general prison population and society at large.”

The Report begins with an overview of restrictive housing, then focuses on the use of restrictive housing within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. It then examines other correctional systems at the federal, state, and local level; looks at a number of state and local jurisdictions that have implemented innovative reforms; and considers how the Justice Department can spur widespread adoption of these practices. “The Report concludes with a statement of aspirational principles to guide the use of restrictive housing within the criminal justice system, as well as a list of specific policy changes that the Justice Department is prepared to undertake to put those principles into effect.”


Click here to view the full DOJ report.

Click here to view the report’s Executive Summary.

Click here to view the report’s Guiding Principles.

Click here to view the report’s Appendix.


More coverage:

Click here to view President Obama’s op-ed in the Washington Post, “Why we must rethink solitary confinement.”