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'The science says stop doing it': Washington ends disciplinary segregation in state prisons

Washington Department of Corrections ended solitary confinement on Sept. 16 to focus on humane treatment of inmates.

WASHINGTON, USA — The Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) will no longer use disciplinary segregation as a punishment in state facilities.

The DOC has been reviewing the disciplinary process for inmates looking for ways to make improvements to the systems in place. After reviewing state data, they came to the conclusion that disciplinary segregation, has not been proven effective for ending problematic behaviors. 

The ending of disciplinary segregation began statewide on Sept. 16. DOC Secretary Cheryl Strange called the decision to end the practice of confinement a "historic moment for the department."

“This is definitely a key step in becoming a human-centered organization," Strange said. "The science is clear on this and the science says stop doing it.”

A 2018 study done by the Southern Poverty Law Center showed that excessive use of restrictive housing can harm the physical and mental health of people held in isolation. The harmful effects of isolation can have long-lasting effects that reach after their release that makes it harder to successfully re-enter the community.  

Washington Governor Jay Inslee applauded the decision as taking steps to make state prisons safer and more humane.  

"Disciplinary segregation has been proven to be ineffective in our state correctional facilities and ending their practice as a form of discipline is the right thing to do,” Gov. Jay Inslee said.

The DOC clarified that the correct term for the practice it has ended is "disciplinary segregation" rather than "solitary confinement". This story has been updated to reflect that change.