AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas prison administrators are considering moves that could result in fewer inmates serving long periods of time in solitary confinement.
"It's likely that there will be further reductions as we continue to improve our policies," said Brad Livingston, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. "We're exploring program options that we expect will have that effect."
About 7,000 of the approximately 150,000 prisoners now fall into the administrative segregation category, known as ad seg. But that's down almost 30 percent in recent years.
"We're going to continue creating more pathways out of ad seg," Livingston told the Austin American-Statesman (http://bit.ly/1hSWVNU ).
Statistics show the Texas prisoners classified for administrative segregation average slightly less than two years in the solitary confinement. The only time they're allowed out of their cells is for a one-hour daily recreation period, during which where they also remain out of physical contact of other inmates.
Prison officials say more than half of the convicts in solitary confinement are there because of violent behavior against staff and other prisoners or because they are escape risks. The ad seg population also includes members of violent gangs.
Prisoner rights advocates have been critical of the agency's practice of releasing solitary confinement inmates directly to the streets once their sentences have been served, saying the harsh transition makes rejoining society even more difficult. Last year, more than 1,200 freed Texas prisoners fell into that category, officials said.
Livingston said improving that transition is a goal of the current policy review.
"We're dialed in on this issue to extend the successes of our treatment programs to this population," Livingston said. "Consistent with our commitment to public safety, I don't think the current number of 7,000 is the floor. I think we can do better."
New York, Mississippi, Washington and Colorado are among several states recently to cut or restrict isolation for prisoners. Some other states are facing lawsuits aimed at achieving the goal.
Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com