|TDCJ ad-seg cell interior. Statesman/TDCJ.|
A second Texas prisoner passed the 30-years-in-solitary mark last Monday. A third will reach it June 15, a fourth on Aug. 3. By the end of November, there will be 10 inmates with the distinction of having spent one score and 10 years in one room, with others not far behind; the state has more than 100 prisoners with at least 20 years in solitary confinement under their belts. ...Since 2006, the number of Texas prisoners kept in solitary (known within the bureaucracy as "ad seg" or "administrative segregation") declined 37 percent, from nearly 10,000 to around 6,000, or from 6 percent to 4 percent of the inmate population. By contrast, in Mississippi 1.4 percent of inmates are kept in solitary, Dexheimer reported.
State records show Texas’ first 30-year solitary prisoner was 58 years old as of March 1. That means he has spent more than half his middle-aged life in one 60-square-foot room.
And while it would be correct to assume that many of those who have served the longest in the system’s most restrictive setting are also some of the state’s worst criminals, that’s not always the case. Two of the inmates who will reach the 30-year solitary mark this year are serving time for burglary.
There's not much moving legislatively on solitary issues during Texas' 84th session. Rep. Marisa Marquez, who's been a quiet, consistent champion on this topic, passed a bill out of committee which would require mental health assessments before TDCJ commits an inmate to ad seg, but it has yet to be scheduled for a floor vote. And the inestimable Sylvester Turner tacked on a rider to the House budget providing funds for mental health treatment for inmates leaving ad seg. Otherwise, most of what's been filed of significance hasn't left committee.
And so we wait, and they wait, and in the meantime the number of prisoners in ad seg more than 30 years and counting will continue to grow, with hundreds more released directly to the streets each year. If change occurs in the next biennium, it'll have to come from the agency or possibly litigation.
BTW, for those interested in the issue, the blog Solitary Watch should be required reading. See also prior, related Grits posts:
- Overuse of solitary confinement endangers public safety
- Don't release inmates directly from solitary into the free world
- More inmates in solitary in Texas than entire prison systems in 12 other states combined
- Solitary confinement down 34% in Texas prisons
- Does excessive use of solitary confinement harm public safety?
- On the relationship between solitary confinement and assaults on prison guards
- Other states reduce solitary use; Texas study authorized but remains unfunded
- Studying how to whittle away at solitary, prison suicides
- Isolation, mental illness and a call for legislative oversight of ad seg
- Solitary confinement closely examined
- 'Solitary confinement reform needed'
- On the perils of reentry following solitary confinement and possible solutions
- Anthony Graves: Solitary confinement 'dehumanizes us all,' creates a 'culture of madness'
- Push to reform ad seg lacks organic constituency