New resource: Prison discipline policies

Our collection of prison discipline policies covers all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and highlights how each system classifies the severity of offenses and punishments.

by Brian Nam-Sonenstein, October 17, 2023

Today, the Prison Policy Initiative is publishing a collection of discipline policies for all 50 state prison systems, the Washington, D.C. Department of Corrections, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons in our Data toolbox. It includes the discipline policy for each system, a list of offense severity classifications from most to least severe, and links to additional documents to help you understand each system’s classification scheme.

Advocates, researchers, and lawmakers can use this collection to examine the rules, offenses, procedures, and associated punishments for each prison system, or to answer questions about prison discipline systems such as:

  • What behaviors are considered “violations” in your state’s prisons?
  • How are different violations punished? How does the severity of punishment for certain actions compare to others?
  • How many different rules can be applied to punish a single action, such as a fight, potentially allowing prison staff to pick and choose or “stack” violations?
  • Does your state’s prison system punish people more harshly than others for similar violations?
  • What does the severity of punishment for certain actions — such as refusal to work or organizing a strike — tell us about the culture and priorities of prisons?
  • What is the “justice” process like inside prisons? How do people defend themselves? Is there due process inside?

We hope this new policy resource (and others, like our collection of DOC policy manuals) will help strengthen the movement to end mass incarceration. If you use the discipline policy collection in your work, tell us about it. Let us know what was helpful, what was not, and what other resources we can provide. If you’re an organization seeking assistance from our Policy and Advocacy staff, drop us a line to let us know how we can help.

Acknowledgement: We thank Prison Policy Initiative alum Emile Suotonye DeWeaver for the initial collection of policy documents and offense classifications.

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