A house is not a hole

When meeting with those in control of human lives, it’s best to put your best foot forward, even in phone meetings. On September 19, I, along with four of my expert team members, attended a phone conference with the Minnesota Department of Corrections Deputy Commissioners Terri Carlson and Ron Solheid. We had requested the meeting to discuss several topics that we thought deserved attention.

I want to convey the gist of the conversation that dealt with the topic of the urgent removal of Minnesota Department of Corrections Division Directive 301.083 (authority from Minn. Stat. $241.01), Segregation Unit Management. In laymen’s terms: the hole, solitary confinement, 23 hours in and one hour out.

We addressed the MN DOC Deputy Commissioners with this topic because we wanted to make sure we were reading it correctly. The directive reads that this policy is used when there is insufficient room in general population for inmates for housing. It is a housing control solution, not a punishment or safety-prevention measure. It’s just a way to deal with the lack of space for incoming residents.

(MGN Online)

The Commissioners did confirm that the directive was correct, and the use of 301.083 is not their first choice for housing solutions, but it’s one that works since it keeps the prisoners in the Minnesota Correctional Facility where they want them. They went on to say that outsourcing to faraway jails is also used for housing solutions, but is a considerably less desired choice than temporary housing in segregation.

The Deputy Commissioners told us that prison was the only choice. It was incredulously left up to my group of professionals to mention the real obvious choice for solution: Free ’em all!

We made note that the offenders who are almost always discretionarily assigned to the hole for temporary housing segregation (THS) are mainly violators who are Black. These offenders have been reported to have violated their probation for various reasons, often petty, by their parole agent, and sent back to prison, more often than not on a short-term basis.

During their short-term stay they have very limited movement within the walls, and this often causes detrimental mental and physical damages that are hard to deal with for them and their community and has a negative effect upon re-entry into society.

Drug treatment facilities, shelters, and moving back home to their family (even with electronic monitoring), seem openly viable resolutions to our team, and we conveyed as much to the DOC. Our very common-sense solutions were met with the pushback of “Who can handle the load?”

Currently, there are over a thousand short-term violators who are in Minnesota Correctional Facilities and causing the over-crowded situation. However, not even one-third of the facilities available right are equipped to properly accommodate real housing to alleviate the problem. Most family households of those challenged with housing a released violator have socio-economic backlash issues directly related to the initial incarceration or are dealing with severe negative conditions prior to the incarceration due to relentless systemic racism.

I am look forward to sharing more on this conversation with readers. For more information, or to share your suggestions for a solution, contact Peace of Hope, Inc. at contactpeaceofhope@gmail.com.

Living in a hole is not a solution.


Sharon Brooks is founder of Peace of Hope, Inc., expert advocates for families of the incarcerated.