On June 19, 2012, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights will conduct a hearing entitled “Reassessing Solitary Confinement: The Human Rights, Fiscal and Public Safety Consequences.” The Texas Sunset Commission recently addressed this issue during its hearings on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. At the hearing, the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice submitted the following as part of its written testimony:

A Washington state study found that inmates released directly from Supermax, which is very similar to solitary confinement . . . in that inmates remain alone in a cell with little or no stimulation for 23 hours a day, had a much higher recidivism and violent recidivism rate, even after adjusting for all other factors. Moreover, such inmates who had been stepped down from Supermax for a period of time prior to release were considerably less likely to recidivate.

It is nonsensical to continue a practice based on the assertion that inmates who are being released to the streets are too dangerous to be outside of their cell for more than an hour a day. Accordingly, we recommend [developing] guidelines that discontinue the practice of releasing inmates directly from solitary confinement . . .by stepping them down to a lower custody level, reduce the assignment of inmates to solitary confinement who have had no disciplinary violations while in prison solely on the basis of suspected gang affiliation, and streamline the process for inmates to earn transition from solitary confinement to the general population through exemplary behavior and gang renunciation.