Skip to main content

PRESS RELEASE: DOC Takes Next Step Towards Reducing the Use of Solitary Confinement

Released October 18, 2023

Contact Chris Wright Communications Office

(Lukas D'Ambrosio, Communications Office)

TUMWATER – Earlier this year, Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary Cheryl Strange pledged to reduce the use of solitary confinement in Washington state prisons by 90% over the next five years. A team including DOC subject matter experts, corrections industry experts Falcon and consultants Integrated Solutions Group has spent the past six months developing a comprehensive plan to make that vision a reality.

Read more about the recently completed Solitary Confinement Transformation Project(pdf) in its entirety. It would cost an estimated $228 million to implement over the next five years.

“This plan will serve as a roadmap as we develop a nation-leading standard for the use of solitary confinement,” said Strange. “We believe these reforms will create a safer environment for both staff and the incarcerated. It will also reduce recidivism by setting up individuals for a greater chance of success when they are released.”

The plan focuses on finding ways to provide four hours a day of meaningful out-of-cell time for incarcerated individuals in restrictive housing, or four times the current one hour a day they currently are given. The Solitary Confinement Transformation Project team says this can be achieved by:

  • Improving staff training and staffing ratios with a focus on safety for everyone.
  • Expanding access to programming in the general population, especially for those at risk of placement in restrictive housing.
  • Enhancing the options and alternatives to solitary confinement.
  • Increasing the efficiency of movement within the restrictive housing system.
  • Providing more opportunities for out-of-cell time in restrictive housing areas.

“We have some extremely violent individuals in our care and custody, and in some cases there is no safe alternative for housing them other than in conditions constituting solitary confinement,” said Strange. “In most cases though, we think we can avoid having to resort to using it. We are excited to delve into this plan and begin working on strategies to bring this plan to life.”

The team that compiled the report conducted workshops and visited prisons across the state to gather insight from both staff and the incarcerated about what is currently working and what is not when it comes to solitary confinement.

DOC will proceed with solitary confinement reform when funding is secured during the next legislative session.

Restrictive housing: a housing assignment for individuals whose presence in general population is deemed to present a danger to self, others, or facility security. Restrictive housing uses enhanced security buildings with single-occupancy cells to separate those individuals from the general population.

Solitary confinement: an operational status in restrictive housing where the individual is confined to a single-occupancy cell for more than 20 hours a day without meaningful human contact, out-of-cell activities, or opportunities to congregate.