An Important Message on Solitary Confinement of State Prisoners with Mental Disorders
From the Mental Health Association in Michigan & Michigan Partners in Crisis
September 6, 2012
Sections 924 and 929 of the FY-13 Department of Corrections (DOC) budget bill prohibit the use of administrative (punitive) segregation of state prisoners with serious mental illness (SMI) or serious emotional disturbance (SED) – as defined in Michigan’s Mental Health Code. (Regarding youth, the same prohibition applies to any prisoner under 19 with developmental disability. Any reference to SED from hereon in this communication includes youth with developmental disability.)
The legislative language states that an SMI or SED prisoner shall not be placed/confined in administrative segregation. An SMI or SED prisoner may only – under the supervision of a mental health professional – be secluded in a therapeutic environment for the safety of the prisoner or others, and such a prisoner in such seclusion shall be evaluated by a mental health professional at least every 12 hours.
This has been an important initiative for the statewide mental health-and-justice coalition, Partners in Crisis (PIC), since its inception. We have had similar language in DOC budget bills previously, but those versions were written in a way that was open to varying interpretations. We believed that administrative segregation for SMI and SED was banned; others may have believed differently. For FY-13, the language was given better clarity and cannot be misinterpreted.
It’s our understanding that DOC will soon seek in a supplemental budget bill language that waters down sections 924 and 929 of the FY-13 budget.
You are encouraged to quickly communicate with the two corrections appropriation subcommittee chairs – Sen. John Proos and Rep. Joe Haveman – and tell them you oppose any changes to sections 924 and 929 of the FY-13 DOC budget bill. State after state is trying to develop ways to end administrative segregation in general, let alone for those with mental illness and emotional disorders. This is an excellent first step for Michigan.
Administrative segregation is a counter-productive and damaging response to “acting out” by persons with SED or SMI. It punishes people for having a brain disorder, and then exacerbates their conditions by creating an environment that is totally inconsistent with effective therapy.
DOC claims that, for FY-11, the daily average number of SMI or developmental disability prisoners in administrative segregation was 96 (a 275% increase from what the Department was reporting five years prior). Others – e.g., Detroit Free Press earlier this year – claim the figure is several hundred.
Either way, the numbers suggest the Department’s avowed appreciation of this issue is not resulting in sufficient progress. Administrative segregation for severe mental disabilities is a losing policy and practice. Senator Proos and Representative Haveman should be commended for the action the Legislature took on the FY-13 budget bill, and you should let them know you strongly oppose any changes to that action.
Thank you for your thoughtful attention to this matter. We would welcome receiving copies of any communications you send (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Legislative Contact Info:
The Honorable John Proos, Michigan Senate
P.O. Box 30036, Lansing, MI 48909
Phone: 517-373-6960, Fax: 517-373-0897
The Honorable Joe Haveman, Michigan House of Representatives
P.O. Box 30014, Lansing, MI 48909
Phone: 517-373-0830, Fax: 517-373-7806