Unlocking Solitary Confinement: Ending Extreme Isolation in Nevada State Prisons
Date:  06-21-2017

Nevada lacks statutes that "define, regulate, or limit segregation, isolation, or solitary confinement"
From the report Untracked and Unregulated Solitary in Nevada by the The ACLU of Nevada, Nevada Disability Advocacy & Law Center, and Solitary Watch :

In 2015, there were 12,769 prisoners in the state of Nevada housed in eight correctional facilities and ten conservation camps. The state’s designated maximum-security facility, Ely State Prison (ESP), which opened in 1986, has the capacity to incarcerate 1,183 people and houses the state’s death row.

Measuring the extent of solitary confinement is always difficult, but particularly so in Nevada. The state has no statutes on its books that define, regulate, or limit segregation, isolation, or solitary confinement in adult facilities. Meanwhile, the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) uses a variety of terms and classifications, such as “administrative segregation” and “disciplinary detention,” and does not keep records on which prisoners are assigned to disciplinary segregation and for how long.

In senate hearings for Nevada’s 2013 solitary reform bill (SB 107), E.K. McDaniel, then-Deputy Director of NDOC Operations, stated that “I have been with the [department] for 20 years, and there are inmates who have been placed in administrative segregation for that same length of time.”

That bill severely limited the use of corrective room restrictions in juvenile facilities and tasked the Nevada state legislature with putting together a study on the state’s use of solitary confinement, but the Department of Corrections was unable to provide a substantial portion of the requested information due to their internal tracking systems and reporting mechanisms.

The aforementioned 2016 report from the Association of State Correctional Administrators and the Liman Program is one of the most comprehensive reports to date on the use of the solitary confinement in U.S. states, territories, and the federal system. However, Nevada is one of just four states excluded from most of the report. According to the authors, “Nevada provided numbers of people who spent various periods of time in restricted housing, but we did not report these numbers due to inconsistencies in the information provided.”

Additionally, in that report, Nevada was:

1 of 17 jurisdictions that stated that they “do not regularly track information on length of stay” in segregation.

1 of 9 jurisdictions that “provided no data about prisoners with ‘serious mental illness’ in both their total custodial population and their restricted housing population.”

1 of 18 jurisdictions that “did not provide information about the number of prisoners in-cell for 16-19 or for 20-21 hours.”

The ACLU of Nevada (ACLUNV) and Solitary Watch received a similar lack of specifics from the NDOC in response to our 2016 public record request for information on the use of solitary confinement in Nevada. We were told by the NDOC that: “We do not have ‘solitary confinement,’ ‘isolation,’ or any type of segregation that sequesters an inmate from others. All have the ability to communicate with staff and/or other inmates.”

NDOC clarified that some prisoners are on “Disciplinary Segregated status.” In that instance: the inmate is lacking the luxuries such as access to all their purchased items (hygiene is still provided) and entertainment items such as their television. The amount of time out of cell is monitored depending on the facility, the situation and the inmate themselves. They are offered a MINIMUM of an hour out of their cell each day, and all still have access to showers, the outside, the telephone, visits with family, reading materials, etc., and in some cases, even a cell mate.

Furthermore, the NDOC told us that: “We have no ability to go back and figure out how many inmates were segregated at a given time. Our computer system only shows where a person is housed, but not why they are housed there.”

In February 2016, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported that there were 1,442 state prisoners in restrictive housing in Nevada, about 11 percent of the state’s 13,278 prisoners. It is important to remember that this number came from the NDOC, which has repeatedly acknowledged its own inability to track segregation.

However, if 11 percent of Nevada’s prisoners are confined to restrictive housing, that rate is higher than in most of the country: Across all jurisdictions, the median percentage of the prison population held in restricted housing is 5.1 percent, according to the Association of State Correctional Administrators’ report. An 11 percent rate would put Nevada at the same level as Nebraska, and higher than all reported jurisdictions except for Louisiana, Utah, and the Virgin Islands.

Read the full report here.