Bill Text - HB480 (2013)

Relative to solitary confinement.

Revision: Dec. 31, 2013, midnight






AN ACT relative to solitary confinement.

SPONSORS: Rep. Robertson, Ches 6; Rep. G. Johnsen, Ches 7; Rep. Christiansen, Hills 37; Rep.?Patten, Merr 17; Rep. Itse, Rock 10

COMMITTEE: Criminal Justice and Public Safety


This bill:

I. Defines “solitary confinement.”

II. Creates conditions for the use of solitary confinement.

III. Establishes a committee to study the use of solitary confinement in New Hampshire prisons.

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Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.

Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]

Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.




In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Thirteen

AN ACT relative to solitary confinement.

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

1 Purpose. The general court finds that:

I. Solitary confinement employed in New Hampshire state prisons, such as within the “Controlled Custody Unit” and “Special Housing Unit”, have been subject to overuse in their application to in-prison disciplinary offenses and inmates known to be suffering from various mental health conditions.

II. Normal human contact with the outside world is essential for ensuring successful re-entry into the community and reducing recidivism rates for prisoners with serious mental illness.

III. Federal courts have ruled that segregating prisoners, especially those with serious mental illness, for too long is a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution barring cruel and unusual punishment.

IV. The cost of incarcerating a prisoner in solitary confinement is often found to be more than double that of conventional prison facilities—for example, a 2007 estimate from Arizona put the annual cost of placing someone in solitary confinement at approximately $50,000 a year compared to only about $20,000 a year for the average prisoner.

V. In 2006, Mississippi began to reduce its segregation population through an aggressive reassessment of prisoners and within 12 months successfully brought down its segregated population by 80 percent and saved approximately $5.6 million per year.

VI. Because the vast majority of prisoners in solitary confinement eventually are released back into the community, it is imperative that we invest our limited public dollars in proven alternatives that lead to greater rehabilitation and pave the way for successful re-entry to the community.

2 Discipline; Solitary Confinement. RSA 622:14 is repealed and reenacted to read as follows:

622:14 Discipline; Solitary Confinement.

I. In this section:

(a) “Solitary confinement” means cell confinement for 22-24 hours or more per day with very limited out-of-cell time and severely restricted activity, movement, and social interaction, whether pursuant to disciplinary, administrative, or classification action.

(b) A person with “serious mental illness and other significant mental impairment” means a person with a substantial disorder of thought or mood that significantly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life, including individuals found to have current symptoms or who are currently receiving treatment for the following:

(1) Types of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV) Axis I diagnosis:

(A) Schizophrenia (all sub-types)

(B) Delusional disorder

(C) Schizophreniform disorder

(D) Schizoaffective disorder

(E) Brief Psychotic disorder

(F) Substance-induced psychotic disorder (excluding intoxication and withdrawal)

(G) Psychotic disorder not otherwise specified

(H) Major depressive disorders

(I) Bipolar disorder I and II

(2) Persons diagnosed with a mental disorder that includes being actively suicidal.

(3) Persons diagnosed with a serious mental illness that is frequently characterized by breaks with reality, or perceptions of reality that leads the individual to significant functional impairment.

(4) Persons diagnosed with an organic brain syndrome which results in a significant functional impairment if not treated.

(5) Persons diagnosed with a severe personality disorder that is manifested by frequent episodes of psychosis or depression, and results in significant functional impairment.

II. The commissioner of the department of corrections may offer suitable encouragement and indulgences to those convicts who distinguish themselves by obedience, industry, and faithfulness, and may punish any convict guilty of insolence or ill language to any officer of the prisons or guilty of obstinate and refractory behavior by solitary imprisonment under the conditions outlined in paragraph III or by such other reasonable and effective modes of punishment and discipline as the commissioner of corrections may from time to time prescribe.

III. Solitary confinement may be imposed, however:

(a) No inmates shall be committed to solitary confinement for in-prison disciplinary infractions for more than 6 weeks.

(b) The scope the infractions that invoke the use of solitary confinement shall be limited to only those offenses which involve violent behavior whereby the inmate in question is a danger to others or oneself.

(c) Solitary confinement shall not be used as a form of housing for inmates under the age of 18 years.

(d) No inmate with serious mental illness or other significant mental impairment shall be housed in solitary confinement.

(e) Prior to being placed or house in solitary confinement, an inmate shall be evaluated by a mental health clinician to determine if he or she is seriously mentally ill or has another significant mental impairment as defined in this section. If the mental health clinician makes such a finding, the inmate shall be diverted from isolated confinement to a prison mental hospital, or other appropriate housing that does not include isolated confinement.

(f) In no case shall any degree of reliance upon solitary confinement be authorized by the warden or other prison official except after a hearing conducted by a properly constituted committee that reviews the evidentiary basis of the charges, adjudges the appropriate length of punishment and selects the type of solitary punishment unit to which the inmate in question is to be consigned.

3 Committee Established. There is established a committee to study the use of solitary confinement in correctional facilities in New Hampshire, to determine the impact of solitary confinement on inmates, and to assess the effectiveness of solitary confinement in reducing problems and costs.

I. Membership and Compensation. The members of the committee shall be as follows:

(a) Four members of the house of representatives, appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives.

(b) Three members of the senate, appointed by the president of the senate.

II. Members of the committee shall receive mileage at the legislative rate when attending to the duties of the committee.

III. Duties. The committee shall gather information regarding:

(a) Criteria for placing an inmate in solitary confinement;

(b) The extent to which staff working with prisoners in solitary confinement receive any specialized training;

(c) The results of any evaluations of the process of solitary confinement in New Hampshire and other states;

(d) The effectiveness of step-down units to transition inmates from solitary confinement to ordinary incarceration or to the community;

(e) The impact of use of solitary confinement on prison order and control in New Hampshire correctional facilities;

(f) The relative cost of housing inmates in solitary confinement versus a regular general population facility; and

(g) The conditions of solitary confinement in New Hampshire correctional facilities.

IV. The committee shall also collect data and statistics regarding:

(a) The number of inmates in solitary confinement in New Hampshire correctional facilities with mental illness;

(b) The number of mental health professionals who work with inmates in solitary confinement in New Hampshire correctional facilities;

(c) The number of inmates in solitary confinement in New Hampshire correctional facilities who are under the age of 21 and the number of inmates in solitary confinement who are under the age of 18;

(d) The number of suicides committed by inmates held in solitary confinement in New Hampshire correctional facilities; and

(e) Other relevant data as identified by the committee.

V. Chairperson; Quorum. The members of the committee shall elect a chairperson from among the members. The first meeting of the committee shall be called by the first-named house member. The first meeting of the committee shall be held within 30 days of the effective date of this section. Four members of the committee shall constitute a quorum.

VI. Report. The committee shall submit an interim report of its findings to the speaker of the house of representatives, the president of the senate, the house clerk, the senate clerk, the governor, and the state library on or before December 1, 2013, and a final report of its findings and any recommendations for proposed legislation on or before November 1, 2014.

4 Effective Date. This act shall take effect 60 days after its passage.




Revised 09/10/13


AN ACT relative to solitary confinement.


      The Department of Corrections states this bill will have an indeterminable impact on state expenditures in FY 2014 and each year thereafter. There is no fiscal impact on county and local revenue and expenditures or state revenue.

      The Department of Corrections was contacted on January 11, 2013 and again on August 23, 2013 for a fiscal note worksheet, which the Department provided on September 9, 2013.


    The Department of Corrections states this bill makes changes to the use of solitary confinement in the state prison. The Department states it is not able to determine the fiscal impact of this bill as the Department has no information to determine how many individuals may be affected.