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Deep Custody: Segregation Units and Close Supervision Centres in England and Wales

Segregation units and close supervision centres (CSCs) are complex places, where some of the prison's most challenging individuals are confined alongside some of its most vulnerable people, within a small, enclosed space. These units may house a combination of people with multiple and complex needs, including some who are at risk of self harm, some who pose a risk to others, and some who are both a risk and at risk, and people with literacy problems, particular mental health needs or physical illness.

Under the Prison Rules, prisoners can be removed from the main prison population and housed in a segregation unit or a close supervision centre (CSC) for a variety of reasons, with periods of confinement in them ranging from a single evening in a segregation unit while facing a charge of breaking a prison rule, to years of indefinite confinement in a close supervision centre. In this sense, segregation units and close supervision centres function as a ‘continuum of exclusion’.

• In January, 2015 the total segregation capacity in England and Wales was 1586 cells. Close supervision centres had a capacity of 54.
• In the first three months of 2014, almost 10% of the prison population spent at least one night in segregation. The CSC population averaged 50 people.
• Of those segregated, 71% spent less than 14 days in segregation, 20% spent between 14 and 42 days, and 9% were segregated for longer than 84 days. The average stay in CSCs was 40 months.
• The majority (95%) of those segregated were adult males. Their average age was 29.

This study set out to: examine how segregation units and CSCs are used; describe the skills and views of staff who work there; and to explore prisoners’ perceptions of fair processes and their treatment. We also wanted to profile good practice.