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EXPERT BLOG: Confinement in Jails Equals Civility

Administration Separation equals civility

Why is the use of Confinement (aka administrative segregation/separation) important in detention facilities?

by Commander Rob Yantis, NCCE
Pennington County Sheriff's Office, SD

Confinement is the only civilized and humane law enforcement response to a neighbor who is actively violent or accused of ongoing criminal behavior that threatens the safety of a community. Confinement is the only civil and humane mechanism of justice for a neighbor convicted of a crime. Confinement in the United States is the civilized progression and answer to millennia of cruel and unusual punishment. Without confinement, law enforcement must either ignore crime or use force to accomplish their objective.

Segregation is confinement within confinement. Segregation is the only ongoing civilized and humane mechanism for protecting facility staff and other inmates from an individual that is violent or intent on disrupting the order of a facility. Segregation is a justified model of harm reduction. Segregation is simply separation and should never be confused with solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is an archaic model of complete separation with minimal human contact. Current mechanisms of segregation include frequent checks in standard cells with access to dayrooms and recreation, access to supervision and medical and mental health staff, and options to reduce segregation with improved behavior.

The truest testament to our national decency is our choice to confine our neighbors when they are violent or destructive, rather than to employ the polarized alternates of inaction or coercive force. Segregation provides humane confinement within confinement when violent or destructive behavior threatens safety and order. Inaction is victimization. Force becomes less necessary because of segregation. Segregation allows officials to humanely house an individual until they progress to a contemplative state of mind amenable to rehabilitation without employing direct force and mechanical or chemical restraint.

Segregation is staff intensive and costly; a mechanism that is not preferred over direct human interaction. But segregation is an imperative control mechanism in humane and civilized confinement. Segregation allows incarcerates to progress in a natural state that is conducive to self-reflection and change. 

Choosing to abandon segregation will only result in the loss of civility and humane treatment, the reduction of willing caretakers and rehabilitators, and increased victimization and violence. It is not progressive to ignore the unavoidable truth that violent behavior exists. Failing to act with a civil and humane mechanism perpetuates victimization. 

Segregation is civility.

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