Allegheny County Jail releases information on solitary confinement rates of June | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Allegheny County Jail releases information on solitary confinement rates of June

click to enlarge Allegheny County Jail releases information on solitary confinement rates of June
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Allegheny County Jail
Allegheny County Jail has released their first solitary confinement report for the month of June, which stated 275 incarcerated individuals were held in an isolated environment, some for as little as one hour and another has spent nearly two years in solitary. The typical solitary commitment lasted about 11 days. The jail's current population is about 1,700 individuals.

In a ballot initiative from May 2021, voters enacted a policy limiting the use of solitary confinement in the county jail, and part of that initiative also mandated that the county complete a report of solitary confinement use at the jail. The ballot initiative was supported by a margin of 70% in support and 30% against.

The report includes the length of isolation for an incarcerated individual, which is labeled as an "episode." Each record of an episode begins at the time the isolated individual is moved into confinement and ends when they are moved to a non-isolated area or are released.

The June report of solitary confinement includes some episodes that lasted for several months, with the longest being 684 days for one individual in solitary confinement. Individuals facing over a year of solitary confinement face mental health challenges and choose to stay in their segregated units, according to county officials.

The report also includes the age, gender, race, and ethnicity of each individual. Two thirds of the isolated population was Black, with virtually all of the remaining isolated population being white. According to WESA, the median age of the 275 individuals was 30 years old.

The Alliance for Police Accountability said in a petition advocating for the ballot initiative that solitary confinement "has devastating and lasting psychological consequences on all persons, but especially for vulnerable populations, including youth and persons with diagnosed or undiagnosed cognitive or emotional disabilities.”

Elena Blano-Suarez Ph.D. wrote in an article in Psychology Today in 2019 about the psychological effects of solitary confinement and loneliness which is that state of being forced to be alone. She found in a report of chronic social isolation that the area of the brain that retains memory and learning decreases, while the area that mediates fear and anxiety increases.

The county's full report can be read below.