Exiting Solitary Confinement: A Survey of State Correctional Policies


Given the emerging consensus that solitary is a weapon used with distressing frequency in U.S. prisons, researchers and practitioners must seriously consider existing tools that allow prisoners to contest their confinement. Thus, although most states now have policies and procedures detailing how prisoners are assigned to solitary, this Comment analyzes policies on the opposite end of the confinement setting—namely, the explicit procedures that explain how to exit solitary, and whether these procedures provide prisoners with proper incentives and guidelines for their release.

This Comment surveys ten states—Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas—that collectively house more than half of the state prisoners in the nation, examining any policies and procedures that describe how prisoners can exit solitary confinement. The survey reveals that all ten states have exit procedures for solitary, although they vary considerably in detail and clarity. The Comment proceeds to offer a detailed analysis of the compiled policies and procedures according to certain themes that emerge across states—in particular, the level of prisoner involvement in the exit procedures, the factors considered by the state department of corrections when determining whether to release a prisoner from solitary, and the timing of that release. By comparing exit policies and procedures across states for recurring themes and patterns, this Comment contributes to the field of existing research and supports ongoing efforts to examine, reform, and ultimately limit the use of solitary confinement.

About the Author

J.D. 2016, UCLA School of Law, Epstein Public Interest Law & Policy Program, Critical Race Studies Specialization.

By uclalaw