Texas Ends Solitary Confinement As Punishment For Inmates

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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Texas no longer uses solitary confinement as a punishment for inmates’ bad behavior, following an unannounced policy change enacted earlier this month.

Put in place on Sept. 1, the change comes as states across the country are battling over whether to keep solitary confinement policies, the Houston Chronicle reported Thursday. Reform advocates claim the practice is immoral and mentally damages inmates, making them more likely to re-offend. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), however, simply found the practice was no longer necessary.

“Restrictive housing has been a topic of discussion across the nation for a number of years and as an agency over the last several we’re really looked at ways to reduce it and in such a way that a priority is placed on safety and security,” a TDCJ spokesman told the Chronicle. “When reviewing solitary confinement as a policy and practice we determined that as a department we can effectively operate without it.”

Correctional facilities typically justify the practice by arguing it incentivizes good behavior, but according to Texas Correctional Employees union head Lance Lowry, there are far more effective ways to do that and the only real use for confinement should be housing truly violent inmates.

The change only affects roughly 75 inmates who were in solitary confinement for breaking prison rules, but who don’t pose a particular danger to other inmates, according to the Associated Press. Four-thousand inmates are still under “administrative segregation,” however, which targets higher-risk inmates.

“There’s never been any factors that show that it positively rehabilitates the individual,” Lowry told the Chronicle. “You still need security detention because the Hannibal Lecters of the world are still out there. There’s still some bad actors in prison that will hurt people.”

The 4,000 inmates still subject to confinement, include gang members, those at risk of escape, and those who are likely to attack other inmates.

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