In March 2014, Texas State Senator John Whitmire warned Department of Criminal Justice officials that it must do more to curb the state’s use of administrative segregation – or risk intervention from a federal judge when and if a civil rights suit is filed. There are more than 7,100 individuals in solitary confinement in Texas state prisons.
"Prison Guard Union Calls on Texas to Curtail Solitary Confinement on Death Row," by Alex Hannaford of the Texas Observer, January 28, 2014. Texas' largest prison guard's union is calling for the state to curtail its use of solitary confinement. In a letter available here, from January 20, 2014, Lance Lowry, AFSCME’s president, wrote that the union believes reductions to the use of solitary confinement on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s death row plan would “positively impact both the correctional staff and offenders on Texas death row.” Learn more here.
In 2013, Texas passed a bill requiring a review of solitary confinement in Texas prisons was signed by Governor Perry, however funding is needed to carry out the review. For more, see this report, "Solitary Confinement Study Approved but Lacks Funding" by Brandi Grissom, The Texas Tribune, from January 7, 2014.
"Texas prison suicide rate high among inmates in isolation" according to Eric Dexheimer, Austin American-Statesman, May 25, 2013. Dexheimer investigates the suicides in administrative segregation. In 2012, the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy asked for a list of long-serving administrative segregation residents. They were given information that at least 100 inmates had been on restricted status for more than 21 years; one is approaching 28 years.
On April 23, 2013, the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice heard Senate Bill 1517. The bill restricts the use of solitary confinement in youth detention centers to four hours. Full text of the bill can be found here.
The Lieutenant Governor included the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's use of solitary confinement as a Senate interim charge, a designated legislative study that is conducted while the Texas legislature is out of session. Interim charge recommendations often provide blueprints for legislation in the next legislative session.In 2010, approximately 6% of Texas prisoners were held in solitary confinement according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Alarmingly, TDCJ reported that over 1,000 inmates were released from solitary confinement directly into Texas communities in 2008.
During the 2011 legislative session, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture joined with Texas Impact to support state legislation (HB 3764) that would have addressed the use of solitary confinement in the Texas prison system. HB3764 would have directed the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to submit an annual report to the Legislature on the use of solitary confinement (“administrative segregation”) and establish a plan to improve the conditions of confinement for those prisoners remaining in administrative segregation.
Texas Impact testified in support of HB 3764 before the Committee on Corrections. HB3764 passed out of committee, but never made it to a floor vote during the 2011 session. However, in January 2012, the Lieutenant Governor included the TDCJ's use of solitary confinement as a Senate interim charge, a designated legislative study that is conducted while the Texas legislature is out of session. Interim charge recommendations often provide blueprints for legislation in the next legislative session. NRCAT and Texas Impact will monitor the interim charge process and seek to provide support and resources to the staff conducting the study.
Links to news stories covering the use of solitary confinement in Texas and development in reforming the practice are available here.