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Q&A: Solitary Confinement

In the entirety of the Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2018 (CJRA) the term “solitary confinement” is never mentioned, in large part because it isn’t used and certainly not at the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office. “Restrictive housing” is a very specific legal term of confinement defined in the CJRA. Contrary to the uninformed claims of one of my opponents, the current policy at the Hampshire Sheriff’s Office, in terms of time required to be provided out of the cell, does not meet this legal definition and is in fact more liberal and therefore not restrictive. Special management is the term utilized when incarcerated individuals need to be removed from the general population and placed in a smaller unit, a 12 man-unit, never alone, for safety purposes. The level of supervision increases there, as does the amount of required contact with both medical and mental health services. When an incarcerated individual assaults another individual, or a staff member so severely he is permanently disabled, as happened less than a year ago at the Hampshire Sheriff’s Office, there need to be choices, in terms of housing and supervision, made in order to protect everyone. Special management is designed for these instances and rightly so. Solitary confinement does not work, nor is it humane. Increased levels of security and supervision for individuals who have demonstrated safety concerns towards themselves and/or others need to be managed very carefully. A mechanism for increased security observation and treatment access is both appropriate and necessary.

As I mentioned in my response to this question in the 3rd candidate forum, the budget has and will continue to be impacted by this requirement for time out of the cell, and increased supervision and services, which must be accommodated by not only security but medical and mental health staff, because the time out of cell is in fact increased in the CJRA, not decreased. A clear understanding of not only the law, but current facility policy and practice is necessary to understand how the CJRA is implemented in a practical fashion. As a multi-year member of the Institutional Review Board which deals with issues of housing and supervision of incarcerated individuals inside of the facility directly, both before and after adoption of the CJRA, I have a unique understanding of the law, its implementation requirements and its practical applications for all staff. This real world, practical experience lends itself to a more complete understanding of the requirements than either of my opponents making me the most informed candidate on this matter. 

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