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A Profile of the Segregated

The Task Force on Segregation found that segregated prisoners were higher risk and higher need than non-segregated prisoners. According to the Offender Intake Assessment Process (a collection of historical and current information on each offender admitted to a federal correctional institution), segregated prisoners have been found to be high need in six of the seven need categories assessed at admission. They are more likely to experience difficulties than non-segregated offenders in relation to:

  1. employment (less than grade 10 education; lacking skills, trade, or profession; unemployed at the time of arrest; unstable job history);
  2. associates and social interaction (socially isolated; associated with substance abusers and criminal acquaintances; easily influenced by others; difficulty in communicating with others);
  3. substance abuse (abuse of alcohol and drugs at an early age);
  4. community functioning (unstable accommodations; financial difficulties);
  5. personal and emotional orientation (cognition problems; hostility; poor conflict resolution skills; low frustration tolerance; thrill-seeking) and
  6. attitude (negative attitudes towards criminal justice system; pro-criminal attitudes; disrespectful and lacking direction; non-conforming).

The paradox emerges that the regime and conditions in segregation units are peculiarly well suited to aggravate and even intensify these characteristics. Where else in the prison system can a prisoner who is socially isolated feel even more isolated? Where else can a prisoner with cognition problems, poor conflict resolution skills and a low frustration tolerance experience conditions in which these are put to the most severe test on a daily basis? Where can a prisoner with a negative attitude towards the criminal justice system find more reinforcement for that attitude than in a segregation cell, in which, locked up for twenty-three hours a day, he is able to focus unwaveringly on his treatment?

The measure of justice accorded prisoners in segregation must not only reflect the fact that segregation is the most intrusive form of imprisonment but also demonstrate the legitimacy of state authority to prisoners for whom that legitimacy is severely compromised.

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