How to get out of Solitary - One Step at a Time
"For many policy makers and activists, curbing the use of solitary
confinement is a moral imperative: Depriving prisoners of human contact
exacerbates and even produces mental illness, increases the risk of
suicide, and generally engenders a sense of hopelessness. But for the
nation’s prison administrators and officers—whether their motivations
come from political pressure, court orders, the high cost of solitary
cells, or genuine human concern—the problem is practical. Many of those
in solitary are mentally ill or were placed there for their own
protection and can be shuffled out quickly. But what about the prisoners
who landed there by attacking other inmates or officers?
Prison is an environment that breeds antagonism and psychologists have long agreed that solitary confinement only exacerbates
a cycle of recalcitrance and retribution. Prisoners resist their
punishments, thereby driving officers to punish them more. At Alger [Correctional Facility], the
staff found it could reverse this process simply by giving prisoners a
reason not to be violent.
Since it began in 2009, Alger’s Incentives in Segregation program has
allowed the prison to transform one of its three 88-man segregation
wings into a general-population wing. The program has spread to multiple
prisons in the state, and the daily average number of Michigan
prisoners in administrative segregation has dropped by nearly 20
percent, from 1,204 in 2008 to 982 in 2013."