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Reassessing Solitary Confinement II BoP Director Samuels Congressional Statement 2014

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FEBRUARY 25, 2014

Statement of Charles E. Samuels, Jr.
Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons
Before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights
United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary
February 25, 2014
Good morning, Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Cruz, and Members of the Subcommittee.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the use of restrictive
housing within the Bureau of Prisons (Bureau). Chairman Durbin, I appreciate you and other
members of the Judiciary Committee for your support of the Bureau over the years, and I look
forward to continuing our work together.
Since becoming the Director of the Bureau, in December 2011, I have undertaken reviews of
many aspects of our operations, including our use of restrictive housing. Certainly I am most
concerned with anything we do that has a direct impact on the safety and well-being of our staff,
the inmates in our care, and the general public. I am equally concerned about our ability to
prepare inmates for release and to reduce recidivism. The hearing held by this Subcommittee in
June 2012 was instrumental in sharpening the Bureau’s focus on restrictive housing; in fact, the
issue has been in the forefront for corrections nationally, not just in the Bureau. Over the past
year, we have accomplished a great deal in terms of reviewing, assessing, and refining our
approach to putting inmates in restrictive housing. We believe that the inmates in restrictive
housing are there for the right reasons and for an appropriate duration.
The Bureau is the Nation’s largest corrections system with responsibility for nearly 216,000
inmates. We confine almost 174,000 inmates in 119 federal prisons that have a total rated
capacity of 130,915. The remaining over 42,000 inmates are in privately operated prisons, and
in Residential Reentry Centers, local jails, or on home confinement. System wide, the Bureau is
operating at 32 percent over its rated capacity. Crowding is of special concern at our higher
security facilities—with 51 percent overcrowding at our high security institutions and 41 percent
at our medium security prisons.
We confine a significant number of dangerous people. More than 45 percent of the inmate
population is housed in medium and high security facilities. At the medium security level 67
percent of the inmates have a history of violence, over half have been sanctioned for violating
prison rules, and half have sentences in excess of 9 years. At the high security level, half of the
inmates have sentences in excess of 12 years, 71 percent have been sanctioned for violating
prison rules, and more than 80 percent have a history of violence. One out of every six inmates
at high security institutions is affiliated with a gang.


However, we take seriously our mission to protect public safety by running safe and secure
prisons and by providing inmates with treatment and training necessary to be productive and
law-abiding citizens upon release from prison. Bureau staff works hard to provide care and
programs to give inmates the best chance for a successful return to their communities.
In order to effectively carry out our mission, at times we must remove some offenders from the
institution’s general population. The vast majority of our inmates remain in general population
throughout their term of incarceration, abide by institution rules, work at institution jobs, and
participate in programs. Most inmates are never placed in any form of restrictive housing.
When restrictive housing is used, it is usually only for brief periods of time for the vast majority
of inmates and involves only a very small subset of the population.
Inmates placed in restrictive housing are not “isolated” as that term may be commonly
understood. All inmates have daily interactions with staff members who monitor for signs of
distress. In most circumstances, inmates placed in restrictive housing are able to interact with
other inmates when they participate in recreation and can communicate with others housed
nearby. They also have other opportunities for interaction with family and friends in the
community (through telephone calls and visits), as well as access to a range of programming
opportunities that can be managed in their restrictive housing settings. Bureau psychologists
receive specialized training to address the needs of inmates who suffer from mental health
problems or disorders and who are placed in restrictive housing units. All staff is trained in
suicide prevention and in identifying and addressing signs and symptoms that may indicate a
deterioration of an inmate’s mental health.
In response to concerns you raised at last year’s hearing, and because it is the right thing to do, I
have been personally involved in numerous initiatives to ensure the Bureau is using restrictive
housing in the most appropriate manner. I consulted with the leaders of several state
departments of correction that have been identified as being particularly progressive in this area,
including in Mississippi, Maine, Colorado, and Ohio. I visited facilities in Mississippi and
Maine to learn firsthand about their experiences.
I am pleased to report that we continue to experience decreases in the number of inmates housed
in various forms of restrictive housing. This reduction is attributable to a variety of initiatives
we have put in place over the past two years including nationwide deployment of a new
information system that allows us to track and monitor carefully the operations of our Special
Housing Units (SHU). Some of the steps we have taken to reduce our use of various forms of
restrictive housing include holding several nationwide videoconferences with Bureau leadership
regarding restrictive housing use, discipline, and alternative sanctions. We have activated a
secure mental health step down unit at United States Penitentiary (USP) in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Bureau has identified inmates in restrictive housing who we believe, can benefit from

residential treatment and the therapeutic environment it provides, and have transferred them to
the unit. The treatment program includes comprehensive assessments and focuses on the
management of mental illness and steps to recovery, emotional self-regulation, improving social
skills, and activities of daily living in a modified therapeutic community setting. We have
transferred some inmates from the Administrative Maximum Security Facility (ADX) in
Florence, Colorado and the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield,
Missouri to this unit.
In addition, we recently established a gang-free institution that allows inmates to safely leave
their gang affiliations and work toward successful reentry upon release from prison. This
program, which currently houses 68 inmates and will continue to expand, is expected not only to
decrease the misconduct that is associated with prison gang activity, but also to provide inmates
with greater opportunities to engage in reentry programming.
We are in the midst of an independent comprehensive review of our use of restrictive housing.
This review, overseen by the National Institute of Corrections, will identify “best practices” for
restrictive housing operations and will help us continue to make improvements. The review
team includes current and former directors and deputy directors of state departments of
corrections who have already conducted four site visits at USP Terre Haute, Indiana, USP
Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, USP Coleman, Florida and Federal Correctional Institution (FCI)
Butner, North Carolina. They will be visiting at least five other sites: USP Allenwood,
Pennsylvania; ADX and USP Florence, Colorado; USP Hazelton, West Virginia; USP and FCI
Victorville, California; and USP Tucson, Arizona. We expect the report to be issued in the
winter of 2014, and look forward to the results of the evaluation to make additional
enhancements to our operations.
Chairman Durbin, this concludes my formal statement. I assure you that I share your
commitment to providing federal inmates with safe and secure housing that supports physical
and mental health. There are certainly times when restrictive housing placements are necessary
and appropriate. A mission for our agency, and for all corrections professionals, is balancing the
need for safety and security of inmates and staff with opportunities for effective interventions
and maintaining ties to the community. I look forward to our continued collaboration on this
important issue.
Again, I thank you Chairman Durbin, Mr. Cruz, and the Subcommittee for your support for our
agency. The mission of the Bureau is challenging. Through the continuous diligent efforts of
our staff, who collectively work 24 hours each day, 365 days per year - weekends and holidays we protect the public and help to reduce crime recidivism. I would be pleased to answer any
questions you or other Members of the Subcommittee may have.