Solitary confinement, administrative segregation, seclusion, disciplinary separation and lockdown are a few of the names for isolating a prisoner in a separate cell.
Officials say administrative segregation or "ad seg," is necessary for offenders who require maximum security to ensure the safety of staff, other offenders and the security of the institution.
Critics say the practice is detrimental to prisoners, corrections offers and the communities where inmates are released, and that such seclusion has the potential to give rise to or exacerbate mental illness. A recent report asserts that for death row inmates in Texas, solitary confinement is tortuous and violates human rights standards.
Within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 2.6 percent of the offender population (3,850 prisoners) are currently under administrative segregation - down 60 percent from the 9,542 prisoners in isolation in 2006.
Is the use of solitary confinement necessary to ensure maximum security, or are there safe, viable alternatives? Can Texas jails and prisons find a balance between prioritizing security and mitigating the risk of damage to isolated inmates?
- Ariel Dulitzky, clinical professor and director of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law; author of the report "Designed to Break You: Human Rights Violations on Texas' Death Row"
- Derek Cohen, deputy director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Right on Crime campaign
- Doug Smith, criminal justice policy analyst for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition
- Brandon Wood, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards