OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 7302

AN ACT CONCERNING ISOLATED CONFINEMENT AND CORRECTIONAL STAFF TRAINING AND WELLNESS.

SUMMARY

This bill generally prohibits the Department of Corrections (DOC) from placing certain inmates in isolated confinement, which the bill defines as confinement of an inmate in a correctional facility cell alone. The inmates include (1) children; (2) individuals with a serious mental illness, intellectual disability, or other significant mental impairment; and (3) individuals with a physical disability. But the bill also specifies circumstances in which these inmates may be placed in isolated confinement for up to eight consecutive hours or 24 hours in a seven-day period.

By January 1, 2018, the bill requires the DOC commissioner to (1) review and revise DOC's isolated confinement policies to conform with the bill and (2) issue any directives necessary to implement the bill. When drafting the directives, the commissioner must adhere to several standards, principles, and requirements specified in the bill.

The bill also requires DOC:

1. at least annually, to submit to the Office of Policy and Management's Justice Policy & Planning Division specified information on restrictive housing and isolated confinement and

2. to publish certain information on its website about isolated confinement, restrictive housing, and the formula for calculating an inmate's mental health score.

Under the bill, “restrictive housing” is inmate housing that is physically separated from other inmate housing. It may constitute isolated confinement.

The isolated confinement prohibition does not apply to certain inmates on special circumstances high security status because they were convicted of a capital felony or murder with special circumstances.

Additionally, the bill requires DOC, within available appropriations, to (1) provide training on mental illness and solitary confinement to its employees who interact with inmates on a regular basis and (2) take measures to promote the wellness of these employees, such as providing employee assistance, peer support programs, and stress management training.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2017

PROHIBITION ON ISOLATED CONFINEMENT

The bill prohibits DOC from placing in solitary confinement any inmate who (1) is a child; (2) has a physical disability; or (3) has a serious mental illness, intellectual disability, or other significant mental impairment.

Under the bill, an “individual with a physical disability” includes a person who is (1) blind or deaf or (2) has severe mobility restrictions and has been prescribed (a) a full-time wheelchair accommodation to move inside and outside of his or her cell or bed area; (b) an intermittent wheelchair accommodation to move outside of his or her cell or bed area; or (c) a walker, cane, or other assistive device, other than a wheelchair, to move around and is unable to walk up and down stairs.

“Intellectual disability” means a significant limitation in intellectual functioning, as defined in existing law, that exists concurrently with adaptive behavior deficits that originated before the individual turned 18.

“Serious mental illness” means a diagnosis by a qualified mental health professional based on the most recent edition of the American Psychiatric Association's “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (i.e., DSM-5) of a substantial thought or mood disorder that significantly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or ability to cope with life's ordinary demands. These diagnoses include schizophrenia; delusional, schizophreniform, schizoaffective, or brief psychotic disorder; substance-induced psychotic disorder, excluding intoxication and withdrawal; psychotic disorder not otherwise specified; major depressive disorders; and bipolar disorder I and II.

“Other significant mental impairment” means disorders other than serious mental illness, including:

1. mental disorders that (a) are frequently characterized by breaks with reality and (b) lead to significant functional impairment,

2. pervasive development or cognitive disorders or organic brain syndromes that result in significant functional impairment, and

3. severe personality disorders that manifest by frequent episodes of psychosis or self-injury and results in significant functional impairment.

PERMISSIBLE ISOLATED CONFINEMENT

In addition to exempting certain inmates on special circumstances high security status from the prohibition on isolated confinement, the bill also makes exceptions to its prohibitions under the following conditions:

1. during facility-wide lockdowns or “class 1 incidents” as defined in the DOC's Administrative Directive 6.6 (see BACKGROUND);

2. as an immediate response to an inmate's request for protective segregation; or

3. as a temporary emergency response to a substantiated threat of imminent physical harm to correctional staff or inmates, after which period correctional staff must return the inmate to the general facility population or consult with a qualified mental health professional to determine if further treatment at a mental health facility is necessary.

DOC DIRECTIVES

When creating isolated confinement directives to implement the bill, DOC must adhere to the following standards, principles, and requirements:

1. Prolonged isolated confinement may only be used (1) to protect against a substantiated threat of imminent physical harm to correctional staff or inmates, (2) for the shortest duration reasonably possible to protect against such harm, and (3) as a last resort when less-restrictive alternatives have failed.

2. No inmate may be assigned to prolonged isolated confinement (i.e., isolated confinement for more than 15 days) without a hearing at which DOC bears the burden of showing by clear and convincing evidence that continued confinement is necessary to protect against a substantiated threat of imminent physical harm to correctional staff or inmates.

3. No inmate may be assigned to isolated confinement for more than 30 days without review by the commissioner or his deputy.

4. Housing an inmate in isolated confinement for more than 30 days must be subject to periodic reviews at least every 30 days. No inmate may be kept in such confinement unless DOC demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence (presumably at another hearing) that there is a continuing risk of imminent physical harm to correctional officers or inmates. Disciplinary violations cannot be the only basis for retaining an inmate in isolated confinement.

5. For any inmate who has been in isolated confinement for more than six months but, based on clear and convincing evidence, cannot be returned to the general correctional population without a substantial probability that correctional staff or inmates will be physically harmed, DOC must adopt and implement reasonable alternative placements that do not involve isolated confinements.

6. Inmates in restrictive housing must be provided with the same access to basic necessities, including food, water, showers, clothing and bedding, as well as sanitary conditions and medical care, including any appropriate preventive and emergency care provided to inmates not in restrictive housing.

7. No inmate held in isolated confinement may be simultaneously denied access to social phone calls, personal visits, and mail.

8. No inmate may be released directly from isolated confinement into the community unless (a) the release is mandated by court order or otherwise by law or (b) because of extraordinary circumstances, the release is necessary for the safety of the inmate, staff, or inmates.

9. No inmate who returns to DOC custody after completing a previous prison term in its custody may be held in restrictive housing based solely on a classification that applied during the prior term.

DOC REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

The bill requires DOC at least annually to submit to the Criminal Justice Policy & Planning Division various aggregated and anonymized information, as described below.

Inmate Demographic Information

This information must include the number of inmates in restrictive housing units in the state's correctional facilities as of the first day of each of the previous 12 months, sorted by (1) the inmate's age as of the report date, (2) gender identity, (3) race and ethnicity, (4) any physical disability, (5) any mental health score calculated by DOC, and (6) the form and phase of restrictive housing and facility.

Also, DOC must submit, for each facility, information on the number of inmates who, during the previous calendar year, spent more than 15 days, cumulatively, in isolated confinement. This information must be broken down by age, gender identity, ethnicity, mental health score, and the form and phase of restrictive housing and facility.

Duration of Isolated Confinement

The statewide data must include the number of inmates currently in restrictive housing units who have spent the following cumulative days in isolated confinement:

1. One to 15 days;

2. 16 to 30 days;

3. 31 to 180 days;

4. 181 to 365 days;

5. 366 to 730 days;

6. 731 to 1,095 days;

7. 1,096 to 1,460 days;

8. 1,461 to 1,825 days;

9. 1,826 to 2,190 days;

10. 2,191 to 2,555 days;

11. 2,556 to 2,920 days;

12. 2,921 to 3,285 days;

13. 3,286 to 3,650 days; and

14. more than 3,650 days.

Restrictive Housing Unit Incidents

The information must include, for each month of the previous calendar year, the incidence of the following in each unit of restrictive housing:

1. correctional facility-wide lockdowns;

2. inmate assaults on correction and department staff;

3. inmate-on-inmate assaults;

4. staff-on-inmate use-of-force incidents;

5. restraint use, including within the cell of an acutely disruptive inmate; and

6. inmate self-harm, suicide, attempted suicide, and emergency medical or psychiatric treatment.

Under the bill, “use of force” means staff-initiated physical contact or contact using an armory item or canine that is (1) in response to a noncompliant inmate and (2) used to establish, maintain, or restore control, order, safety, or security. It does not include routine (1) physical contact or (2) restraint use.

“Restraint” means any mechanical device used to control the movement of an inmate's body and limbs, including flex cuffs, soft restraints, hard metal handcuffs, a black box, leg irons, belly chains, a security chain, or a convex shield.

TRAINING

The employee training DOC develops under the bill must cover the following subjects:

1. recognizing mental illness symptoms,

2. psychiatric medications' potential risks and side effects,

3. de-escalation techniques to safely manage individuals with mental illness,

4. de-escalation and communication techniques to divert inmates from situations that may lead to an inmate being placed in isolated confinement,

5. consequences of untreated mental illness, and

6. short- and long-term psychological effects of isolated confinement.

DOC WEBSITE INFORMATION

The bill requires DOC to publish on its website:

1. the formula for calculating an inmate's mental health score;

2. a description of any form of restrictive housing used in the state's correctional facilities, including identifying any that constitutes isolated confinement; and

3. documentation of the cause and duration of any isolated confinement of an inmate who is a child or has a serious mental illness, significant mental impairment, or intellectual or physical disability.

BACKGROUND

Category 1 Incidents

DOC Administrative Directive 6.6, “Reporting of Incidents”, effective July 20, 2015, divides incidents, for staff response and notification purposes, into three categories. Category 1 incidents are the most serious and include:

1. outside assault on a DOC building or facility;

2. significant breach of the facility perimeter;

3. possession of firearms, ammunition, or explosives by an inmate or visitor;

4. death of an on-duty employee, visitor, volunteer, or untimely death of an inmate or an injury to any of these individuals that results in admission to an acute-care hospital;

5. an inmate assault on a DOC employee that results in a serious injury;

6. a riot, hostage situation, group disturbance, or inmate work stoppage;

7. major fire, bomb threat, or suspected bio-chemical contamination;

8. employee job action;

9. any suspected, attempted, or confirmed escape from a correctional facility, inmate work detail, or during transport, including community reports of a sighting of an escapee;

10. any incident requiring an emergency response unit to be alerted or mobilized;

11. discharge of a firearm, including by accident, or use of certain chemical agents for reasons other than training or equipment maintenance;

12. substantiated information on a planned disturbance or organized disobedience;

13. an event that seriously impacts the unit's normal operation such as a health emergency, power outage, any major destruction or disablement of state property, or an incident requiring an unplanned lockdown of the facility;

14. terrorist threat or intelligence of suspected terrorist activity;

15. an instance of workplace violence or the threat of such violence that requires immediate separation of employees due to an imminent threat of violence;

16. any reported inmate-on-inmate sexual abuse, inmate-on-staff sexual abuse, or staff-on-inmate sexual abuse where there is immediate evidence or indication that such abuse occurred; and

17. inmate suicide attempt requiring immediate life-saving measures.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

27

Nay

14

(04/04/2017)