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Department Implements Innovative Improvements to Disciplinary Segregation Unit
By Steve O'Neil , Communications & Community Affairs Officer , Hampden County Sheriff's Department
Published: 03/16/2009

Depimplementsinovativeimpro Up until January of 2008, the Hampden County, Massachusetts Sheriff’s Department maintained a Special Management Unit that was similar in many ways to other 23-hour-a-day lockdown disciplinary segregation units in jails and prisons throughout the country.

Although our segregation unit had never been intended to be a major housing unit, it had become one over the years. It had become a dumping ground for difficult-to-manage inmates, a “jail within a jail.”

It frankly bothered our department that we were operating a unit that appeared to foster negativity, anger and pathology. Although we prided ourselves that our institution was a correctional facility, not a “warehouse”, our segregation unit seemed to be out-of-sync with the positivity and productivity that characterized the rest of our facility.

We therefore formed a committee of some 25 of the best and brightest of our staff, uniform and non-uniform, and charged them with thrashing out a proposal that would give us a Special Management Unit that we could be proud of.

The committee, after many months of teamwork, inspiration and perspiration, came back with an extensive, balanced and sensible program of changes that were largely approved by the Sheriff, and which we began implementing in November of 2008.

The changes that have been put in place have already significantly reduced the numbers in segregation by assuring that it is not used as a “dumping ground” for any inmate who presents challenges, and by assuring that an inmate stay in segregation only as long as is necessary to assure safety, security and order.

We have instituted some programs in segregation, consistent with security concerns regarding the population that we are dealing with. This includes a behavioral program that is built on the judgment of the line officers in segregation and that provides the challenge and opportunity to have good behavior rewarded.

We have also instituted some improvements regarding auditory stimulation to help combat any possible mental deterioration in segregation inmates.

We have also assured that just as some inmates from our correctional facility are “stepped down” into the community through lesser levels of security, some of our segregation inmates are stepped down back into the main population, utilizing our already existing community re-entry model.

Already we are seeing measurable results in a lessening of violent incidents, both in the segregation unit and throughout the institution.

The Special Management Unit has become what it was meant to be: a place to address and improve problematic and pathological behavior, instead of a place to give it a home.

Any other facility or department wishing to learn about the specifics of the changes that we have so successfully put in place in our Special Management disciplinary segregation unit please feel welcome to call Assistant Superintendent Kevin Crowley at (413) 547-8000, ext. 2810 or to e-mail him at kevin.crowley@sdh.state.ma.us



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