Solitary confinement, also known as “punitive segregation” or “the bing,” means that you are locked into a cell for a minimum of 22 hours a day.

The U.S. Supreme Court found that “a considerable number of prisoners fell, after even a short [solitary] confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others still, committed suicide…”[1]


► The New York City jails have one of the highest rates of solitary confinement in the United States, exceeding the national average of between 2 and 4%.

► By the end of FY2013, the DOC intends to increase its solitary confinement capacity by 69%. Once complete, “bing” beds will number 1,215, or approximately one for every ten incarcerated individuals.

► The average length of confinement in the bing is 48.9 days.

► Currently, the New York City Department of Correction (DOC) designates between more than 200 punitive segregation beds for people diagnosed with mental illness.



► Mississippi has reduced the number of prisoners in solitary confinement in state prison by 75.6% since 2007. Violent jail incidents have decreased 50% over the same period.[2]

► Maine has reduced the number of state prisoners in solitary confinement by 70% since 2010, and has ended the practice of keeping mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement. [3] There has been no increase in violence in its prisons.

► In addition, California,[4] Connecticut,[5] Indiana,[6] Massachusetts,[7] New Mexico,[8] New York State,[9] Ohio,[10] Texas,[11] and Wisconsin[12] have each excluded people with serious mental illness from solitary confinement units.

► The U.S. Senate recently held a hearing on solitary confinement in prisons and jails.[13] In response to this hearing, the New York Times called for severe restrictions on the practice.[14]

► The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Torture recently released a report recommending that solitary confinement be banned as a punishment in prisons and jails.[15]


► The NYC Jails Action Coalition and more than 30 organizations are calling on the Board of Correction to adopt minimum standards on NYC jails use of punitive segregation:

• to use solitary confinement as a last resort;
• increase the amount of time a person in isolated confinement is allowed to spend out of cell daily;
• limit the number of days in isolated confinement;
• exclude people younger than 25 and those with mental or physical disabilities or serious injuries from isolated confinement;
• require the creation of alternative safety restrictions to address violent conduct by these people in a more therapeutic manner;
• improve due process afforded to those at risk of being placed in isolated confinement;
• increase transparency by requiring the DOC to report on its use of isolated confinement and alternative safety restrictions.


“The overreliance on and inappropriate use of segregation hurts individual prisoners and officers. But the consequences are broader than that: The misuse of segregation works against the process of rehabilitating people and threatens public safety.”[16]


[1] In re Medley, 134 U.S. 160, 168 (1890).

[2]Reassessing Solitary Confinement the Human Rights, Fiscal, and Public Safety Consequences: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights of the S. Judiciary Comm., 112th Cong. (2012) (statement of Christopher Epps, Comm’r, Miss. Dep’t of Corrections).

[3] Lance Tapley, Reducing Solitary Confinement, The Portland Phoenix, Nov. 2, 2011.

[4] See Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F. Supp. 1146 (N.D. Cal. 1995).

[5] Settlement Agreement, State of Connecticut Office of Protection & Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities v. Choinski, No. 3:03 CV 1352 (D. Conn. Mar. 8, 2004).

[6] Private Settlement Agreement Between Defendants and Plaintiff, Mast v. Donahue, No. 2:05-cv-00037 (S.D. Ind. Jan. 23, 2007).

[7] Settlement Agreement, Disability Law Center, Inc. v. Massachusetts Dep’t of Correction, No. 07-10463 (D. Mass. Apr. 12, 2012).

[8] Letter Agreement from Joe R. Williams, Secretary of Corrections for the State of New Mexico, Nick D’Angelo, General Counsel, and Robert T. Booms, Counsel for Defendants to Mark Donatelli, Peter Cubra, Sophie Cooper, and Jane Yee, Counsel for Petitioners in Ayers v. Perry and other individual habeas actions pending in New Mexico State Court 18-19 (May 20, 2003).

[9] SHU Exclusion Law of 2008, 2008 N.Y. Laws 1 (codified as amended at N.Y. Correct. Law §§ 137 & 401-a & N.Y. Mental Hyg. Law § 45).

[10] Ohio Dep’t of Rehab. & Corr., Bureau of Mental Health Service, Standard Operating Procedures, Exclusion Criteria for Inmates Recommended for Ohio State Penitentiary, SOP 2 (2001).

[11] Ruiz v. Johnson, 37 F.Supp. 2d 855, 915 (S.D. Tex. 1999) (rev’d on other grounds, 243 F.3d 941 (5th Cir. 2001).

[12] Settlement Agreement, Jones ‘El v. Berge, No. 00-C-421-C, Ex. A at 5 (W.D. Wis. June 24, 2002).

[13] Erica Goode, Senators Start a Review of Solitary Confinement, N.Y. Times, June 19, 2012.

[14] Editorial, The Abuse of Solitary Confinement, N.Y. Times, June 21, 2012.


[16] Peoples v. Fischer, 2012 WL 24002593 (S.D.N.Y. 2012) (quoting John J. Gibbons and Nicholas de B. Katzenbach, Confronting Confinement: A Report of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons at 53–54 (2006)).