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Report shows every community is harmed by mass incarceration
September 28, 2022
Today the Public Interest Law Center and the Prison Policy Initiative released a new report, Where people in prison come from: The geography of mass incarceration in Pennsylvania, that provides an in-depth look at where people incarcerated in Pennsylvania state prisons come from. The report also provides 10 detailed data tables — including neighborhood-specific data for Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Allentown — that serve as a foundation for advocates, organizers, policymakers, data journalists, academics, and others to analyze how incarceration relates to other factors of community well-being.
The data and report are made possible by the 2021 Legislative Reapportionment Commission’s decision to address the practice of prison gerrymandering. Pennsylvania was the first state to address this problem through its redistricting commission. With this change, the Commonwealth — for the first time ever — counted most incarcerated people at their homes instead of in prison cells when drawing new legislative district lines.
The report shows:
Every single county — and every state legislative district — is missing a portion of its population to incarceration in state prison.
While Philadelphia County sends the most people to prison, the much smaller Venango County has the highest imprisonment rate of any county, at 452 per 100,000 residents.
There are dramatic differences in imprisonment rates within communities. For example, in Philadelphia, one of the most racially segregated cities in the nation, residents of the Nicetown neighborhood are more than fifty times as likely to be imprisoned than residents of the Center City-West neighborhood.
Data tables included in the report provide residence information for people in Pennsylvania state prisons at the time of the 2020 Census, offering the clearest look ever at which communities are most impacted by mass incarceration. They break down the number of people locked up by county, city, town, zip code, legislative district, census tract, and other areas.
The data show the cities with the highest state prison imprisonment rates are Chester (1,191 per 100,000 residents), Harrisburg (1,144 per 100,000 residents) and Uniontown (972 per 100,000 residents). For comparison, Bethel Park has the lowest imprisonment rate, at 21 people in state prison per 100,000 residents. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have imprisonment rates of 463 per 100,000 residents and 276 per 100,000 residents, respectively.
“The nation’s 40-year failed experiment with mass incarceration harms each and every one of us. This analysis shows that while some communities are disproportionately impacted by this failed policy, nobody escapes the damage it causes,” said Emily Widra, Senior Research Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. “Our report is just the beginning. We’re making this data available so others can further examine how geographic incarceration trends correlate with other problems communities face.”
The report cites studies that show that incarceration rates correlate with a variety of negative outcomes, including higher rates of asthma, depression, lower standardized test scores, reduced life expectancy, and more. The data included in this report gives researchers the tools they need to better understand how these correlations play out in Pennsylvania.
“Mass incarceration hurts every community in Pennsylvania, but hurts some communities more than others,” said Benjamin Geffen of the Public Interest Law Center and co-author of the report. “As state and local leaders rethink our approaches to criminal justice, they should use data about who is in state prisons to target investments in jobs, housing, education, and healthcare that will strengthen families and communities.”
The report is part of a series of reports examining the geography of mass incarceration in America.
Pennsylvania is one of more than a dozen states and 200 local governments that have addressed the practice of “prison gerrymandering,” which gives disproportional political clout to state and local districts that contain prisons at the expense of all of the other areas of the state. In total, roughly half the country now lives in a place that has taken action to address prison gerrymandering.
Report shows every community is harmed by mass incarceration
September 15, 2022
Today the Prison Policy Initiative, along with Delaware advocates Kyra Hoffner and Jack Young released a new report, Where people in prison come from: The geography of mass incarceration in Delaware, that provides an in-depth look at where people incarcerated in Delaware state prisons come from. The report also provides six detailed data tables that serve as a foundation for advocates, organizers, policymakers, data journalists, academics and others to analyze how incarceration relates to other factors of community well-being.
The data and report are made possible by the state’s landmark 2010 law that requires that people in state prisons be counted as residents of their hometown rather than in cells when state and local governments redistrict every ten years.
The report shows:
All three counties — and every state legislative district — are missing a portion of their population to incarceration in state prison.
Wilmington has the dubious distinction of having both the highest number of city residents incarcerated as well as the highest incarceration rate of any city in the state.
Mass incarceration is not just a problem impacting large cities. Many smaller towns are also hit hard. Laurel, for example, has an incarceration rate of 1,227 per 100,000 residents, while Blades has a rate of 924 per 100,000 residents.
Data tables included in the report provide residence information for people in Delaware state prisons at the time of the 2020 Census, offering the clearest look ever at which communities are most impacted by mass incarceration. They break down the number of people locked up by county, city, zip code, legislative district, and census tract.
The data show the cities with the highest incarceration rates are Wilmington (1,299 per 100,000 residents), Seaford (748 per 100,000 residents) and Dover (680 per 100,000 residents). For comparison, Newark has the lowest incarceration rate of any city, at 131 per 100,000 residents, nearly ten times lower than Wilmington, and nearly three times lower than the state rate of 380 per 100,000 residents.
“The nation’s 40-year failed experiment with mass incarceration harms each and every one of us. This analysis shows that while some communities are disproportionately impacted by this failed policy, nobody escapes the damage it causes,” said Emily Widra, Senior Research Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative and co-author of the report. “Our report is just the beginning. We’re making this data available so others can further examine how geographic incarceration trends correlate with other problems communities face.”
The report cites studies that show that incarceration rates correlate with a variety of negative outcomes, including higher rates of asthma, depression, lower standardized test scores, reduced life expectancy and more. The data included in this report gives researchers the tools they need to better understand how these correlations play out in Delaware.
“This report provides the most precise picture ever of which communities are most impacted, and just as importantly, it shows where support and resources should be deployed to repair that harm,” said Kyra Hoffner, co-author of the report.
“Every person locked behind bars in Delaware represents a piece of the fabric of a community that is missing,” said Jack Young, co-author of the report. “This report and data provide critical guidance on where and how resources and support should be allocated.”
The report is part of a series of reports examining the geography of mass incarceration in America.
Delaware is one of more than a dozen states and 200 local governments that have addressed the practice of “prison gerrymandering,” which gives disproportional political clout to state and local districts that contain prisons at the expense of all of the other areas of the state. In total, roughly half the country now lives in a place that has taken action to address prison gerrymandering.
On August 30, a federal court in Georgia approved a settlement in the years-long class action lawsuit against Global Tel*Link Corporation (“GTL”), one of the two major providers of phone services in prisons and jails. This litigation challenged GTL’s policy of seizing customer money from “prepaid accounts” after a short period of inactivity. Just as important, though, it shows why the FCC needs to take action to end this type of abusive practice throughout the industry.
Under the terms of the settlement, GTL will provide cash payments to some customers, account credits to others, and will institute a uniform policy of not seizing customer funds until accounts have been inactive for a minimum of 180 days. GTL has also agreed to implement procedures to warn customers before their accounts are declared inactive. Prison Policy Initiative filed an amicus brief in the case, pointing out certain ambiguities in the settlement agreement — our concerns were addressed by the addition of clarifying language in the court order approving the settlement.
One of the more interesting facts revealed in the case came at the very end — just days before the final hearing, the court denied GTL’s request to keep secret the amount of money it has taken from “inactive” accounts over the years. Although the court allowed GTL to keep such amounts secret for recent periods (specifically, September 2021 onward), we now know that from April 2011 through August 2019, GTL took over $121 million from customer accounts that it declared inactive — this averages to over $1.2 million a month. This isn’t money that GTL earned in return for providing a service, it’s simply money that GTL took because it could.
We have pointed out this shocking figure to the FCC, along with a request to enact rules that would prohibit companies from taking funds like this. Even though GTL has agreed to some reforms as a result of the class-action settlement, other telecom companies can and do seize customer funds in a similar manner, and no company should be able to enrich itself by taking money simply because a customer hasn’t made a call in recent months.
Information about the settlement
Although the deadline to file a claim for cash payments has passed, customers with active or reactivated accounts are still eligible to receive credits. See the official class website at https://gtlprepaidsettlement.com/FAQ.
An underutilized government dataset goes deep into daily life in state prisons — including work assignments, programming, and discipline — revealing lost opportunities for rehabilitation, education, and hope.
As 1.25 million people in state prisons navigate their sentences, many are eager to find hope for a better life after release. They may seek out ways to work and earn a living behind bars, set themselves up for success upon release, and gain a better skillset for navigating life outside of the criminal legal system. Prisons often claim to provide appropriate educational programming, vocational training, and other opportunities for growth or “rehabilitation.” But as the most recent, nationally representative data from state prisons show, these facilities provide few opportunities for people looking to make the most of their time inside. Instead, prisons — guided by state policies, as well as the broad discretion of correctional staff — tend to focus on enforcing rigid rules and filling incarcerated people’s time with menial work, without which the prison could not function.
Using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates, this briefing reveals how prisons fail to implement programs that we know “work” at setting incarcerated people up for success in the future (such as giving people opportunities to earn money, obtain an education, or gain relevant job skills). 1 These failures have far-reaching effects: When people in prison have little to no income, they may accumulate child support debt, suffer without essential commissary items, or be unable to access communication with loved ones, which can impact people on both sides of the bars. Less overall opportunity in prison can mean lowered prospects for employment and finding stable footing upon release.
Prison work is often compulsory, does little to build useful skills, and pays almost nothing
Prison jobs, often called “work assignments,” are the most common “programming” offered in state prisons. 2 Prisons rely on the labor of incarcerated people for food service, laundry, and other tasks that offset operational expenses. (While less common, some prisons also contract with public and private entities, assigning some people to “prison industries” jobs where they do anything from make eyeglasses to fight wildfires.) In general, work assignments are not thoughtfully designed to provide job skills and development: They are intended to keep the prison running and keep “idleness” at bay.
Data note: The last time the data were collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) on how many workers are paid was in 2004. But in 2022, six states (Ala., Ark., Fla., Ga., S.C., and Texas) still paid nothing for most or all jobs done by incarcerated people, and together, these states made up 30% of state prison populations nationwide in 2019, suggesting that the percentage of workers who are unpaid has likely not changed much since the 2004 survey.
Employment as we know it outside of the carceral system is typically a consensual relationship between employer and employee, and protected by employment laws; prison work assignments, on the other hand, are often compulsory, and incarcerated workers have few rights and protections compared to non-incarcerated workers.3 Prison labor is sealed off from standard workplace protections and minimum wage laws by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which contains an “exception clause” allowing slavery or involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime.
If an incarcerated person refuses to work, they often face disciplinary action. Those who do work receive paltry wages — far less than $1 per hour, typically – and even those mere pennies are often deducted to pay for fees, restitution, and child support, or must be saved for basic necessities like medical visits, hygiene items, and phone calls.
According to the national Survey:
58% of people in state prisons have a work assignment. Most of these jobs help keep the prison functioning, such as janitorial duties (29% of workers); food preparation (20%); working in a prison library, stockroom, barber shop, or similar (12%); groundskeeping (10%); and jobs doing maintenance, repair, or construction (7.4%). Only about 6% work in “prison industries” jobs, producing goods or services for other state agencies or companies.4
Considering the broader context of incarcerated people’s lives before prison, 61% of those who had provided at least half of their household’s income before their arrest reported having a prison work assignment in prison. These individuals are now almost certainly earning significantly less than they did in the outside world. And the remaining 39% of former income-providers who now have no work assignment may be experiencing a dramatic shift from providing for their loved ones to having no income to contribute to their families at all.
Most (71%) people with a work assignment are required to have one, suggesting that many people are forced to work. While many people in prison want to be productive while behind bars, they lack any control in pursuing relevant, stimulating, and/or safe work assignments.5
People in prison who were not forced, but chose to work, said the following reasons were “very important” in their decision: learning new skills (70%), earning money (54%), relieving boredom (51%), or earning good time for earlier release (45%). (Only the 29% of people who chose to work were asked about their motivations.)
White people in state prisons were slightly more likely than people of other racial and ethnic groups to have a work assignment (63%, compared to 54%-58% for other groups). Previous studies point to racial bias (and gender bias) in how jobs are assigned to incarcerated people.
The Survey did not ask about wages earned (or even whether respondents earned anything at all), but a recent analysis found that the highest-paid incarcerated people earned over one dollar per hour in “industries” jobs, while the typical state prison job — doing things like laundry, food preparation, or other tasks supporting prison operations — paid only 13 to 52 cents per hour.6 These unthinkably low wages have remained stagnant since our 2017 deep dive into prison earnings (and even then, we found that some prisons were paying workers less than they had in 2001). Considering the additional blow dealt by inflation, people in prison have virtually no chance of building up financial savings, no matter how hard they work.
State prisons lack educational opportunities, job training, and programming that would help develop skills
Prison work assignments are not the only area where prison policies are inconsistent with what we know would help incarcerated people. In the words of one group of researchers, prison programs that build skills, confidence, and mental health “reduce recidivism by increasing the opportunity cost of committing crimes.” But the staggering length of waiting lists for education and programming at many facilities nationwide tells us not only that incarcerated people want programming, but that there is not nearly enough.
Overall, about two-thirds (68%) of people in state prison have participated in some type of programming, including education (43%); job training (33%); and classes in anger management (35%), parenting (17%), or money management (17%).
According to the Survey:
Because most work assignments involve menial tasks that are unlikely to help people find skilled work upon release, it seems likely that job training programs would be popular among incarcerated skill-seekers. But the Survey data show that only one-third (33%) of people in state prisons report ever having participated in job training. This lack of widespread job training opportunities may help explain why 29% of incarcerated workers voluntarily chose to take on their work assignments.
Most of those (58%) who were ever enrolled in job training successfully completed their program, but 1 in 5 (20%) people were prematurely cut off from their program before finishing.7
White and Hispanic people were the least likely racial or ethnic groups to participate in job training (29% each, compared to 33%-37% for other groups). This disparity could be explained by the fact that white and Hispanic people had the highest rates of pre-prison employment, which could indicate less need for training.
Offering education in prisons has a known return on investment, leading to well-documented reductions in recidivism and providing the credentials that lead to better jobs. People tend to enter prison with lower-than-average education levels, and were often under-supported and over-disciplined while in school.8 Yet instead of being able to make up for lost time by enrolling in educational programs, the Survey data reveal that only 43% of people in state prisons have participated in educational programming (even though 62% had not completed high school upon admission). Participation rates in education are similar among men and women and across age groups, though incarcerated women are more likely to have a high school education than incarcerated men.
Our analysis of the Survey results also found that:
Among the 57% of people in state prisons who had never participated in educational programming, the reasons they cite for not participating are illuminating: 18% — over 125,000 people — had never been offered the chance. Another 11% said that they weren’t qualified or allowed to attend, and 7.3% said they could not get into an education program or were waitlisted — again pointing to the widespread problem of waitlists for programming in prisons. Some of these same failures to inform people of educational opportunities and get them enrolled applied to job training programs, too.
White people in state prisons were the least likely to participate in an education program compared to all other racial and ethnic groups.9 This finding may be related to the relatively higher educational attainment of white people who enter state prison compared to other groups, particularly Black and Hispanic people, and the requirement in someprisonsystems that people without a high school education must enroll in basic education courses.
Half (53%) of people without a high school credential reported former or current enrollment in education programs, compared to less than 30% of people with at least a high school diploma – further evidence that high school and college opportunities aren’t equally available in prisons.10 While high school equivalency (e.g., GED) programs can start to bridge the education gap between incarcerated people and the general public, the lack of higher education opportunities remains a problem, as a high school education alone greatly limits employment prospects.11
Even minor rule violations in prison can have serious consequences
Prisons have strict rules that govern nearly every aspect of life, and incarcerated people face frequent, excessive, and often arbitrary punishment for alleged violations of those rules. Importantly, discipline systems in prison do not have nearly the same level of due process or transparency that courts do: Correctional officers can hand out “tickets” for suspected rule violations at their discretion, setting off a series of administrative hearings and investigations led by prison staff. People behind bars do not have the right to an attorney (related to the violation), to cross-examine witnesses, or to be judged by a jury of their peers, even when they are accused of an action that would be a crime in the free world. And whether the incarcerated person pleads guilty or not, a hearing committee or higher authority can issue sanctions to almost any degree.
In his 1975 illuminating deep-dive, Prisons: Houses of Darkness, law professor Leonard Orland points out the trap set by unjust systems of prison discipline, which still holds true today:
“Punishment imposed by a prison discipline committee constitutes a most unfair kind of ‘triple jeopardy.’ Typically, the same committee that ordered punitive segregation also has the power to take away statutorily or meritoriously earned ‘good time,’ … Moreover, records of such misconduct are seen by the parole boards and may well be a factor in parole denial. Thus, a finding of prison misconduct may result in three separate losses of freedom for the inmate.”
Our analysis of the Survey data shows that people in state prisons can be harshly punished even for minor, non-violent infractions. This is disproportionately true for women, and in some cases for people of color. Specifically:
More than half (53%) of people in state prisons had been written up for or found guilty of at least one rule violation in the past year.12 This is the same percentage of people written up for rule violations in 1986 – although state prisons in 2016 held nearly 800,000 more people than they did 30 years prior, so far more individuals are impacted by prison discipline today. Of respondents who were written up at least once in the 12 months prior to the Survey, about 9% reported receiving a “major” violation, a category that includes assault, rioting, attempted escape, and food strikes.
Women in prison are more likely to report being written up for a rule violation in the past year than men (58% versus 53%). Of those who were written up at least once, women were more likely to have received a “minor” rule violation than men (70% versus 57%). These data align with research showing that women are more likely to be written up and disciplined for breaking prison rules, and receive disproportionate punishment for minor, subjective infractions like “disrespect.”
Nearly all people (90%) with a major orminor rule violation in the previous year received some form of disciplinary action. Of those who were disciplined, about half (53%) lost certain “privileges,” like access to the commissary, visitation, or phone calls, even though these things should arguably be considered “essentials,” not “privileges,” in prison. And 1 in 8 (12%) lost sentence-reducing “good time” (days credited off one’s sentence for good behavior) that they’d already earned. And, of course, these violations become part of each individual’s disciplinary record, which impacts weighty decisions including parole release. All of these punishments underscore the high stakes of prison discipline.
One-third (35%) of those who received a disciplinary action for their most recent rule violation were ordered to solitary confinement, an extreme measure that is hardly ever appropriate (and often comes with the losses of other “privileges” mentioned above). This high dependence on solitary confinement is particularly concerning, as the international human rights community considers solitary confinement, as practiced in U.S. prisons, to be torture.13
Men (26%) were more likely than women (17%) to receive solitary confinement as a sanction for a rule violation. This finding tracks with national data on the use of “restricted housing,” which includes solitary confinement. Some state prison systems have recently moved to cut down on using solitary for specific populations (for example, Massachusetts eliminated the “restrictive housing unit” at its only women’s prison in 2020). However, women were more likely than men (18% vs. 12%) to be confined to their own cell as punishment, a practice that advocates consider similarly egregious.
Racial disparities in sanction types were not readily apparent through the Survey data. For example, between 22% and 28% of each racial or ethnic group was sent to solitary confinement as a sanction, and between 1% and 4% of any given group were transferred to another facility as punishment. Nevertheless, research points to alarming racial disparities in how rule violations in state prisons are recorded and disciplined.14
The survey data suggest that prisons lean heavily on solitary confinement for infractions that involve no physical harm, such as “verbal assault.”15 Even respondents who were written up for things falling into the category “other minor violations” ended up in solitary 17% of the time. Even if everyone who was ordered to solitary confinement for their most recent past-year violation served just one day there (and many certainly had much longer stints than that), this amounts to 135,000 days, or 370 years in solitary confinement.
Prison rules and disciplinary procedures are an under-discussed issue that shapes daily prison life. As the Survey findings make clear, just as with work assignments and programming, there is a disconnect when it comes to rule violations between what prisons do in practice and what would actually help people return to their communities with a fair chance at a good life. Solitary confinement, in particular, is incredibly damaging to mental health, even increasing the risk of premature death after release from prison. But any sanctions that disrupt what little support exists for incarcerated people are bound to fail them in the long run.
Conclusion and recommendations
In the name of “justice,” states misguidedly send large numbers of people with low levels of education and income to prison, and then offer them little in the way of economic, professional, or personal growth opportunities to increase the odds of a better future. The Survey data show that incarcerated people are starved for opportunities to earn a real living and find purpose in state prisons. It’s in everyone’s best interest to offer meaningful opportunities to incarcerated people — for one, it costs far less to educate someone compared to locking them up. Putting obvious fiscal considerations aside, disrupting the cycles of struggle, unlawful or violent behaviors, and incarceration will require more compassionate — and less carceral — interventions.
Policymakers must drill down to these aspects of everyday prison life to improve outcomes. Without better opportunity and preparation, the hope to which so many incarcerated people cling throughout their sentences will wane, their cycles of incarceration will continue, and the crisis of mass incarceration will continue to be one of our nation’s greatest failures. Therefore, we recommend that states:
Bring prison employment into modern, real-world context:
Legally recognize incarcerated workers as employees, affording them workplace protections, the right to unionize, and minimum wages
In applicable states, end the requirement to work in prison16
Ensure that work assignment and job training opportunities align with skills and technologies that are relevant to today’s job market
Establish policies and accountability measures to ensure work assignments are not allocated in a discriminatory manner
Shift priorities away from monotonous work and punishment, toward opportunity:
Ensure that all incarcerated people are aware of programming and educational opportunities available to them
According to the Survey of Prison Inmates, 58% of people have a work assignment, compared to the next-highest result, 43% of people who have “ever” participated in educational programming. ↩
Though not explicitly excluded, the courts have interpreted the Fair Labor Standards Act – which provides federal minimum wage, overtime protection, and other standards – to exclude incarcerated workers. ↩
The largest nationwide prison industries program partnering with private companies is called the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP), which places incarcerated people into jobs for outside-world employers, where they are paid the “prevailing local wage.” In order to participate in PIECP, corrections departments must promise to “provide worker benefits,” assure voluntary participation, and comply with federal environmental policy. Though these criteria represent a step up from the average prison work assignment, not all state jurisdictions – and relatively few incarcerated people – participate in PIECP. At the end of 2021, just shy of 5,400 people – or 0.4% of people in state and federal prisons – were employed through PIECP. Meanwhile, other prison industries participants are not necessarily guaranteed minimum wage or other protections. ↩
Audits of state prison work programs have revealed that the skills many incarcerated workers are trained in fall short of being relevant for future job-seekers. For instance, one-third of participants in Louisiana‘s state prison enterprises program in 2018 were working in industries expected to decrease in the labor market. And in Mississippi, incarcerated workers were being trained in areas for which there were few actual job prospects in that state. ↩
Raw data from a previous iteration of the Survey of Prison Inmates, conducted in 2004, revealed that only 57% of incarcerated people with work assignments earned any wages for their labor. And according to analysis from the American Civil Liberties Union, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas pay nothing at all in wages to many or all of their incarcerated, non-industry workers. ↩
About 9.5% of people who stopped participating in job training said that they “were no longer allowed to participate”; 6.4% reported that their job training program stopped running before they could complete it; and 4.3% were transferred to another facility before they could complete their program. ↩
The Survey data reveal that 40% of people in state prisons (compared to just 15% of all U.S. adults) have a physical or cognitive disability; in childhood, students with learning disabilities or special education needs are systemically under-supported by a severe shortage of trained personnel and related services, setting them up for failing grades and higher rates of discipline and bullying at school. ↩
Participation in educational programming by race and ethnicity breaks down to the following: white (34%); multiracial (43%); American Indian/Native American (45%); Hispanic (46%); Black (49%); and Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (57%). ↩
This finding tracks with other Bureau of Justice Statistics data showing that the majority (87%) of state and federal U.S. prisons offer high school education, but only half (49%) offered any college courses in 2019. ↩
Additionally, because the average maximum sentence length in state prison is about 15 years (according to the Survey), many people could complete both a high school and a college education during their incarceration. ↩
This is likely an underestimate, because some prisons did not allow certain people to take the Survey of Prison Inmates – including some who may have been more likely to have been written up for breaking prison rules. According to the survey’s methodology, “Refusals by facilities included prisoners who were deemed by the facility to be a safety or security risk because they were too violent to be interviewed. This group also included prisoners to whom SPI interviewers were not permitted access because they were not housed in the general population.” The methodology also notes that “The majority of these [refusals] were from one state,” though they do not specify which state that was. ↩
U.N. experts have noted that the U.S.’s use of prolonged solitary confinement is excessive and amounts to psychological torture. As established by the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the “Nelson Mandela Rules”), prohibits prolonged solitary confinement (confinement for a period longer than 15 consecutive days), noting that the practice violates the ban on torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment. ↩
One researcher examined disciplinary records from North Carolina state prisons in 2020, finding that Black and Indigenous incarcerated people received disproportionate numbers of write-ups and sanctions, compared to their white counterparts. And The New York Times examined disciplinary records from state prisons in New York in 2015, finding that Black and Latino men were disciplined at higher rates and sent to solitary confinement more often than white men. The racial disparity persisted even after controlling for offense type and age. ↩
According to the Survey, over one-third of those written up for “verbal assault” of a correctional officer or incarcerated person were sent to solitary confinement (36% and 35%, respectively). ↩
Based on the Survey of Prison Inmates data alone, which doesn’t contain state identifiers, we don’t know which states’ prison systems require incarcerated people to work. ↩
Compensation for participating in education, programming, or even waiting to enter a program is policy in some state prison systems, including Pennsylvania, but is typically set at the lowest pay tier, disincentivizing participation. ↩
This recommendation may involve providing a basic income upon release, a practice that would have wide-ranging benefits beyond the ability to pursue education. ↩