Resolution on the Release of Inmates Directly from Solitary Confinement
This resolution addresses the failed practice of releasing prison inmates directly from solitary confinement to the public. Research has shown that by taking someone who has been segregated with no stimulation for 23 hours a day and then releasing them directly to general society, the rate of recidivism, and especially violent recidivism, is increased dramatically. Accordingly, prisons should step down inmates to a lower level of custody prior to their release.
WHEREAS, tens of thousands of prison inmates in the U.S. are in solitary confinement;
WHEREAS, thousands of inmates are released every year directly from solitary confinement to the general public, including more than 1,200 such direct releases in Texas alone during 2013;
WHEREAS, a study in Washington state found that inmates released directly from the Supermax prison, which consists entirely of solitary confinement, committed new felonies at a rate 35 percent greater than that for inmates of the same risk profile released from the general population.[i]Additionally, a greater percentage of the new crimes committed by those released from solitary confinement were among the most serious violent felonies;[ii]
WHEREAS, the Washington state study found that inmates who had been stepped down to a lower level of custody at least 90 days prior to release had significantly lower recidivism rates than comparable inmates released directly from the Supermax setting;
WHEREAS, In 2013, a Colorado inmate released directly from solitary confinement murdered the state’s director of corrections, Tom Clements. Alarmingly, dating back to 2002, half of those released from Colorado prisons who subsequently committed murder served time in solitary confinement, with some discharged directly to the street. However, major changes are underway that are significantly reducing overall solitary confinement in Colorado and those discharged directly from this custody level, with the latter figure falling from 221 in 2004 to 70 in 2013;[iii]
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that state prisons systems should avoid releasing inmates directly from solitary confinement;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, approval of corrections department head or his/her designee in the corrections agency should be required based upon finding a clear and present danger to staff and inmates in order to maintain an inmate in solitary confinement within 90 days of his release, unless that inmate has been segregated based on a severe disciplinary violation committed within 180 days of his release date.
Approved by the ALEC Board of Directors July 1, 2014
[i] David Lowell, et. al., “Recidivism of Supermax Prisoners in Washington State,” Crime & Delinquency, Oct.2007, vol. 53 no. 4 633-656, http://cad.sagepub.com/content/53/4/633.abstract.
[iii] Jennifer Brown and Karen Krummy, “Half of parolees who murdered spent time in solitary confinement,” Denver Post, Sept. 23, 2013, http://www.denverpost.com/parole/ci_24140370/half-parolees-who-murdered-spent-time-solitary-confinement. Rick Raemish, “My Night in Solitary,” New York Times, Feb. 20, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/opinion/my-night-in-solitary.html?_r=0.