guard walking around jail

July 2016

The concerns focus on the potentially damaging effects of segregation on a person’s physical and mental health, public safety risks posed by incarcerating people in restrictive housing for extended periods, and the sometimes subjective criteria used by corrections staff to determine the placement, length of stay, and conditions imposed on inmates in restrictive housing.

With funding from the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) project team, which included a diverse group of restrictive housing experts,and South Dakota Department of Corrections (SD DOC) partnered to develop a plan to safely and securely reform of restrictive housing within the maximum-security South Dakota State Penitentiary (SDSP).  CJI’s Model for Reshaping Restrictive Housing guided the work.  At its most basic level, the model ensures that—

  • appropriate placements are made into restrictive housing using a fair and objective process;
  • activities and interactions during inmates’ restrictive housing placement are geared towards behavior change;
  • inmates are prepared for their transition to general population; and
  • the process used to retain or release an individual from restrictive housing is fair, objective, and based on behavioral indicators.

In one year’s time the South Dakota State Penitentiary reduced its restrictive housing population by 18 percent, while the violent incident rate in restrictive housing is now at its lowest point—lower than the rate in general population

The report provides additional detail describing how the model was implemented within SDSP.  Foundational supports for the restrictive housing reform effort are also discussed, including: clear policies and procedures; professional standards and state examples; staff engagement, buy-in, and training; performance measurement and quality assurance; and technical assistance.  The report concludes with lessons learned: keys to restrictive housing reform, and time needed for implementation.

Click here to read the report.