P.A. 22-18 AAC the Correction Advisory Committee, the Use of Isolated Confinement and Transparency for Conditions of Incarceration. (S.B. 459)
This bill limits the amount of time and circumstances under which an incarcerated person may be held in isolated confinement and places new requirements on its use. It also does the following:
- establishes a nine-member Correction Advisory Committee to, among other things, submit a list of correction ombuds candidates to the governor and meet quarterly with the ombuds;
- expands the current correction ombuds program to serve everyone in Department of Correction (DOC) custody rather than only those under age 18, requires it to provide additional services (e.g., evaluations of DOC services to incarcerated individuals), and grants it additional powers (e.g., to privately communicate with anyone in DOC custody and to access additional materials);
- relocates the correction ombuds program from DOC to the Office of Governmental Accountability (OGA) and adds the ombuds or his or her designee to the Governmental Accountability Commission (GAC); and
- requires DOC’s report to the Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Division about inmates on restrictive housing and administrative segregation status, which contains aggregated and anonymized data, to instead require similar, disaggregated data on those in isolated confinement.
The bill limits and places new requirements on DOC’s use of isolated confinement on incarcerated individuals, including those in pretrial, presentencing, or post-conviction confinement. Under the bill, “isolated confinement” means any form of confinement in a cell (except during a facility-wide emergency or lockdown or the provision of medical or mental health treatment) with less than the following time out of a cell for all incarcerated individuals:
- four hours per day, beginning July 1, 2022;
- in the general population, four-and-a half-hours per day, beginning October 1, 2022; and
- in the general population, five hours per day, on and after April 1, 2023.
The bill requires that any use of isolated confinement must maintain the least restrictive environment needed for the safety of incarcerated individuals, staff, and facility security. If DOC holds an incarcerated person in isolated confinement, it must do the following:
- ensure, within 24 hours of initiating the process, that (a) a medical professional (i.e., licensed physician, physician assistant, advanced practice nurse (APRN), registered nurse, or practical nurse) conducts a physical examination and (b) a therapist (i.e., licensed physician who specializes in psychiatry, psychologist, APRN, clinical social worker or master social worker, or licensed professional counselor) conducts a mental health evaluation on the person;
- ensure the person’s safety and well-being is regularly monitored, including through a daily check-in from a therapist;
- provide the person access to (a) reading materials, paper, and a writing implement; (b) at least three showers per week; and (c) at least two hours out of the cell per day, including at least one hour for recreational purposes; and
- continue de-escalation efforts when applicable and appropriate to the situation.
Under the bill, “de-escalation” means attempting to defuse a crisis without the use of force (i.e., a DOC employee’s use of physical force or deadly physical force to compel an incarcerated person’s compliance, including by restraints, chemical agents, canines, munitions, or forcible extraction from a cell, other than when responding to a psychiatric emergency).
Additionally, the bill prohibits DOC from placing an individual in isolated confinement until after it has considered less restrictive measures. It also prohibits placing an individual in isolated confinement:
- for longer than is necessary, or for more than 15 consecutive days or 30 total days within any 60-day period;
- more than once based on the same incident that was previously used for the placement; and
- for protective custody (however, it may use isolated confinement for up to five business days while determining whether protective custody status is appropriate).
The bill prohibits DOC from holding anyone under age 18 in isolated confinement. Current law prohibits the department from placing minors in administrative segregation (i.e., placing an inmate on restrictive housing status after determining the inmate can no longer be safely managed within the correctional facility’s general inmate population).
Lockdown Restriction and Reporting
The bill prohibits DOC from imposing a lockdown (i.e., detaining all individuals within their cells) on an entire correctional facility, or on a portion of it, to train staff for more than 24 cumulative hours in any 30-day period.
By January 1, 2024, the bill requires DOC to report to the Judiciary Committee on measures the department has taken to address the following issues:
- the frequency, cause, and duration of lockdowns;
- the presence of individuals with serious mental illness or developmental and intellectual disabilities in isolated confinement or on restrictive housing status;
- efforts to increase the time an incarcerated person spends outside of his or her cell;
- the provision of therapeutic and other pro-social programing for individuals on restrictive housing status;
- the use of in-cell restraints; and
- fostering cooperation and engagement with the correction ombuds and the Correction Advisory Committee.
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