- Associated Press - Friday, May 27, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina prison officials have cut the number of inmates in solitary confinement in half over the past year.

The News & Observer of Raleigh (http://bit.ly/1Z5D6UK ) reports about 5,330 of the state’s 38,000 prisoners - 1 in 7 - were kept in isolation on any given day. This month, that number was down to 2,540.

State prison Commissioner David Guice says his goal is to end the state’s heavy use of solitary confinement, a punishment that he says is linked with an increase in assaults on staff members.

Guice says other states that are moving away from solitary have seen assault numbers decline.

Advocacy groups and psychiatrists have criticized the practice, calling its effects harmful.

Last year, the ACLU and other prison advocates formally asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate North Carolina’s use of solitary confinement.

The state prison system was one of five in the country chosen last spring to participate in a two-year study to reduce the use of solitary confinement.

“Restrictive housing is changing,” Guice said. “We soon will get away from using that as a tool that is going to keep people locked down for long periods of time and not provide them the assistance and help that they need.”

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Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com

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