The fact that hundreds of convicts deemed by prison officials to be too dangerous for the general prison population are going from solitary to release, Ward reported, seemed to stun members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee during a hearing Tuesday at the Capitol.See Grits coverage of the Senate Criminal Justice Committe hearing on Tuesday discussed in the editorial.
The state senators called on prison officials to develop programs for inmates in solitary.
"Why not give them some life-skills or some faith-based programs or something that can prepare them for when they get out, rather than just turning them loose," state Sen. John Whitmire, the Houston Democrat who chairs the Criminal Justice Committee, asked prison officials.
Inmates in solitary confinement typically spend 23 hours of each day in their cells. They are let out for an hour to exercise and shower.
A Texas inmate shipped off to solitary can find himself in isolation for an indefinite stay. The average is 3.2 years. Some inmates are locked away alone for a decade or more.
Texas prison officials said that most Texas inmates kept segregated from the general inmate population — about 60 percent — are gang members, Ward reported.
No doubt there is a small group of inmates who truly need to be separated from the general prison population, but the experience elsewhere, according to various reports, is that most inmates in solitary confinement are there for relatively minor reasons. They are not among "the worst of the worst" — the common assumption regarding prisoners in solitary confinement — and do not need to be kept isolated for sustained periods of time.
Thursday, September 06, 2012
'Solitary confinement reform needed'
The title of this post is the headline to an Austin Statesman staff editorial arguing to reform solitary confinement ("ad seg") policies and procedures to reduce recidivism and prepare prisoners kept in isolation for reentry when their prison terms are up. Here's an effective excerpt: