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What is Ad Seg in Prison?

Administrative segregation (Ad Seg) is a form of solitary confinement separation from the general population in prisons. It involves placing inmates in single-occupancy cells away from other prisoners for disciplinary, protective, or investigative purposes. Ad Seg is used by prison officials to maintain safety, security, and order within correctional facilities.

Inmates can be placed in Ad Seg for various reasons, such as:

  • Disciplinary infractions and violations of prison rules
  • Violent or predatory behavior towards other inmates
  • Gang affiliation and activities
  • High notoriety cases that threaten safety
  • Requests for protective custody from other inmates
  • Pending investigations and awaiting hearings

Ad Seg differs from normal solitary confinement in that it allows limited privileges like yard time and access to books. However, human contact and movement is extremely restricted. Cells are solitary with solid doors and inmates take all meals and participate in activities alone. Ad Seg periods can last from few weeks to several years depending on circumstances.

Reasons for Placing Inmates in Ad Seg

Prison officials use Ad Seg to isolate and restrict inmates from the general population for both punitive and administrative reasons. Some common reasons include:

Disciplinary Infractions

Inmates who break prison rules or threaten safety can be sent to Ad Seg as punishment. Serious offenses like assaulting staff or other inmates, possessing contraband, or organizing gang activity typically result in segregation. It serves as an official disciplinary sanction.

Violent and Disruptive Behavior

Extremely violent, volatile, or unmanageable inmates may be segregated to protect staff and other prisoners from harm. If an inmate engages in fights, attacks, or threats, Ad Seg can control them.

Escape Risks

Inmates deemed escape risks due to past attempts or threats might be held in Ad Seg. Solitary confinement allows closer monitoring and controls of high-risk individuals.

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Protective Custody

Inmates who fear for their safety from other prisoners can voluntarily submit to Ad Seg. Protective custody segregates vulnerable individuals like former law enforcement, informants, or sex offenders.

Pre-Hearing Detention

Awaiting disciplinary hearings or investigations, inmates are often temporarily held in Ad Seg. Preventative detention allows prisons to contain potential threats.

High-Profile Cases

Infamous inmates with notoriety or media attention may be segregated to prevent influence or harm to others. These cases can disrupt operations and threaten security.

Ad Seg by the Numbers

Ad Seg use and criteria varies between state, federal, and private prisons. Here are some key statistics on its prevalence:

Year Number of Inmates in Ad Seg
2008 81,622 inmates
2014 67,442 inmates
2017 61,000 inmates
  • Ad Seg populations declined 17% between 2008 and 2017
  • In 2017, 4.5% of the US prison population was in restricted housing
  • 80,000 inmates spent time in Ad Seg, many for 30 days or longer
  • Most states limit Ad Seg to less than 15% of prison capacity

These numbers indicate Ad Seg use has dropped in recent years but remains a common practice in US prisons. Tens of thousands of inmates are in solitary confinement at any given time.

Conditions of Confinement in Ad Seg

Ad Seg units severely restrict human contact and mobility through sensory deprivation. Typical conditions include:

  • Single-person cells with solid steel doors, restricted visibility
  • Locked down 22-24 hours per day
  • No outside access or activities with other inmates
  • Tightly controlled showers and meal times
  • Extremely limited property, books, commissary
  • Constant video surveillance and restraint policies

Inmates in Ad Seg are isolated and confined alone for almost all daily activities. Sensory experiences are lacking. Interaction with staff is limited to guard escorts and cell inspections. The isolated conditions often create significant mental health strains.

Concerns and Criticisms Over Ad Seg

The practice of Ad Seg has come under scrutiny in recent years, facing allegations of overuse, lack of oversight, and psychological damage:

  • Overuse: Critics argue Ad Seg is excessively used to manage marginal risks from minor threats and non-violent inmates. The isolated conditions are too severe.
  • Mental Health: Research shows prolonged solitary confinement under Ad Seg causes psychological harms like depression, anxiety, hallucinations, and increased suicides.
  • Oversight: Many allege the Ad Seg placement process lacks accountability and meaningful reviews, concentrating unchecked power with prison officials.
  • Rehabilitation: Solitary isolation runs counter to rehabilitation goals by depriving social engagement and worsening mental health.
  • Human Rights: Ad Seg is widely seen as unethical, cruel, and degrading punishment by human rights advocates when imposed long-term and without cause.
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These concerns have led to calls for reforming Ad Seg policies to limit excessive use, improve mental health care, provide structured programming for inmates, and strengthen procedural safeguards over placement decisions.

The Ad Seg Experience for Inmates

adseg table

Ad Seg housing inflicts severe psychological consequences on inmates isolated for weeks, months, or years. Former prisoners describe profound mental suffering:

  • Severe depression, anxiety, anger from social deprivation
  • Racing thoughts, paranoia, hallucinations from sensory deprivation
  • Nightmares, insomnia from cell confinement
  • Hopelessness and suicidal thoughts from the unknown segregation duration
  • Social withdrawal, intolerance of stimuli after release
  • PTSD, lasting personality changes from the traumatic conditions

While Ad Seg is intended to control inmates, many critics argue it creates significant mental health crises and long-term dysfunctions. The social isolation contradicts rehabilitation.

Oversight and Review of Ad Seg Placements

ada seg review

Ad Seg terms must balance disciplinary, safety, and rehabilitation aims. Key aspects surrounding oversight include:

  • Initial review – Committees determine if segregation is warranted based on documented evidence, investigations, and classification assessments.
  • Regular review – Multi-disciplinary teams review each Ad Seg case every 30-90 days on average. They evaluate ongoing threats, mitigation options, and mental health.
  • Hearings – Inmates can appeal the terms with periodic hearings to argue for reintegration based on good behavior and protocols.
  • Mental health input – Counselors assess mental states before and during Ad Seg. Medical recommendations may alter confinement conditions.
  • Long-term policy – Most prisons prohibit indefinite Ad Seg beyond a maximum term limit barring extraordinary circumstances.
  • Return to general population – Correctional staff create plans to transition inmates from Ad Seg by lowering restrictions incrementally.

Effective policy requires robust oversight at all levels while balancing prison management needs.

Reforming and Reducing Reliance on Ad Seg

ad seg reform

In response to mounting criticism, some prison systems are reforming Ad Seg in recent years:

  • Tightening criteria for Ad Seg placement to match policy aims
  • Limiting terms to minimum required durations
  • Improving mental health screening and care
  • Adding amenities like books, education, daily hour out-of-cell
  • Strengthening review process with consistent guidelines
  • Exploring alternatives like separate housing units with programming
  • Training staff on risks and proper use

While improvements are growing, most advocates argue Ad Seg should be drastically limited to only exceptional cases for short periods when absolutely needed. There are growing calls to regulate the practice through legislations and statutes. Reform remains gradual and uneven across different prisons.

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What are the goals of Ad Seg?

The main goals of Ad Seg are to punish violations, manage dangerous or vulnerable individuals, and maintain order by isolating certain inmates. Prison officials use solitary confinement through Ad Seg to deter infractions, protect prisoners and staff, and contain disruptive influences.

How does Ad Seg differ from general solitary confinement?

Ad Seg differs in that it has defined utilization policies, oversight procedures, and allows some limited privileges. General solitary has fewer restrictions and safeguards on its use. However, conditions under both are similar – extreme social isolation in single cells for 22-24 hours daily.

What are the alternatives to Ad Seg?

Alternatives corrections experts recommend include separate housing units with programming, privileges incentives for good behavior, non-solitary disciplinary sanctions like loss of recreation, and emphasizing conflict resolution. Building humane conditions and limiting Ad Seg terms is also advised.

Does Ad Seg actually improve inmate behavior?

Research shows Ad Seg has little positive impact on behavior. The isolation breeds mental health problems, resentment, and dysfunction that disrupts rehabilitation. Constructive programming and conflict resolution are more effective for improving conduct. Ad Seg should be carefully limited.

What are the long-term effects of Ad Seg confinement?

Prolonged Ad Seg creates severe psychological traumas like depression, hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, and social withdrawal. Lasting PTSD, personality changes, cognitive declines, and suicidal tendencies often persist years after segregation. The mental health effects are largely harmful over the long-term.


In conclusion, administrative segregation or Ad Seg remains a controversial but entrenched practice in US prisons. It allows isolating targeted inmates but carries psychological risks. Ad Seg use is declining but remains widely implemented for disciplinary, safety, and health reasons, backed by thorough procedures. However, oversight varies significantly. Reformers continue to push for stronger regulations and reductions in solitary confinement through Ad Seg. The practice brings complex tradeoffs between prison management needs and inmate mental health concerns. Balancing these aims remains a central Ad Seg challenge.

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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