What is a dropout yard? It’s a term inmates and prison staff use to describe a certain type of facility. They are scattered across the US and are sometimes referred to as SNY or Special Needs Yards.
Who’s placed in these facilities? Former law-enforcement personnel, gang drop outs, and sexual deviants for a start. These inmates are placed there because there aren’t any politics in them and most inmates leave everyone else alone. They are supposed to be safe places, and most of the time they are. That isn’t to say some of the people incarcerated in these facilities don’t still have a target on their back for being a sexual predator or a snitch. They do, and they still have to watch their back even in the dropout yard.
In order to get transferred to one of these facilities, you have to be recommended for the transfer. Most inmates are sent there after being housed in the SHU or Special Housing Units in other facilities. It gets expensive to house people in the SHU, and they are overcrowded, so one solution is to transfer individuals to a dropout yard. Another way to get there is to debrief and drop out from your gang.
As they get older, some gang members get tired of the continuous drama in gangs, realize the futility and stupidity of it all, and just want to serve their time and go home. In order to do this, they have to debrief by giving information to authorities. Often this is dangerous for them, but there isn’t any other way to get out. (Most gangs adhere to the blood in – blood out rule.) They will remain marked as a snitch. This is actually pretty ridiculous, as the authorities already know who is who and what they are all doing anyway. What is told to them is already old news.
Dropout yards serve a purpose for those who just want to pay their dues and go home. Hopefully, these facilities will not turn into places where gangs and drugs thrive the same way they do in regular facilities.
My son spent almost three years in solitary at the North Las Vegas Detention Center, while he was waiting for his trial way back in 2009. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eleven plus years in a federal facility. Although he did all the programs, (Narcotic Anonymous, Alcohol Anonymous, etc.) and attended college classes, and worked at UNICOR in Edgefield South Carolina, he was sent to Beaumont USP. His points were low, but he had a detainer from the state of Nevada, so they sent him to a high level prison. From the day he heard about it, he was upset and afraid because Beaumont had a reputation for violence. Even his counselor said he should have not been sent there.
That reputation proved to be true and he had to continue his gang affiliations to survive. He is older than most gang members and was so tired of all the posturing and drama, he wanted to “retire” from the gang and indicated that to them. They did not like that and put a target on his back. To protect himself, he had a knife in his cell, like almost all of the prisoners there. Someone snitched on him and he was sent to solitary confinement. (The SHU) In addition, he was charged with possession of a knife and now faces 20 additional months of incarceration. Most prisoners caught with a knife only get an infraction (Shot) put in their record. He was also designated to a Special Management Unit (SMU) for those who have not yet learned to get along. Just when he finally tries to do the right thing, it gets worse for him.
His past is following him. He is being sent to Lewisburg for Special Management Training, which is a prison even more dangerous than Beaumont. According to a post from an inmate there, (Live From Lockdown) it is a terrible place where just speaking your mind can get your hands and feet shackled for 72 hours or more. It is inhumane treatment for anyone. The cells are extremely small (only one person can be comfortable standing in the cell at a time) and they put two inmates in the cell together, who are polar opposites, so they can “learn to get along”. I don’t care who you are, being locked in a cell with someone else 23 hours a day can and probably will get on your nerves if not drive you crazy. I am truly afraid for his safety.
I have written to the warden at Beaumont and to his counselor asking he be designated to a “drop out” yard for gang members who do not want any more to do with gangs, but I have not heard back. (Actually it has to be his request to be reassigned) There is also a downside to the “drop out” or Special Needs Yards. If he is designated to one of those yards, he will be targeted for the rest of his time in prison. There is no easy way out.
Copied from The ACLU website: February 5, 2015. This article states how a new report shows that solitary confinement does not make Texas more safe, or do anything to rehabilitate those put in solitary. I have long felt that solitary confinement was a waste of taxpayer money and not a solution for prison problems. If you put someone in solitary confinement and leave them there for days, weeks, or years, who do you think will come out of that hole? Most likely a dangerous, angry or crazy person. It is just common sense that solitary confinement does not work in most cases. There are times when an inmate may need to be confined for a short time, but there has to be alternatives for this type of punishment for most inmates. Even inmates who are segregated for their own safety are put in solitary. Yes, it keeps them alive, but at what cost? There has to be a better way.
“Everyday from dusk to dawn theres noise, banging, clanking, yelling, screaming. Everyday someone is getting hurt or hurting themselves. Everyday theres fire and floods and complete chaos & hate. Everyday there’s loneliness. I woke up last night to someone screaming ‘Let Me Out of Here’ (again) over and over with so much anguish there was no doubt he was screaming from his very soul. But he was just screaming what we are all thinking. Everyday is a challenge here. A challenge against insanity.”
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) confines 4.4 percent of its prison population in solitary confinement. Texas locks more people in solitary-confinement cells than twelve states house in their entire prison system. On average, prisoners remain in solitary confinement for almost four years; over one hundred Texas prisoners have spent more than twenty years in solitary confinement. The conditions in which these people live impose such severe deprivations that they leave prison mentally damaged; as a group, people released from solitary are more likely to commit more new crimes than people released from the rest of the prison system. Yet in 2013, TDCJ released 1,243 people directly from solitary-confinement cells into Texas communities. These prisoners return to society after living for years or decades in a tiny cell for twenty-two hours a day, with no contact with other human beings or access to educational or rehabilitative programs. As documented in our report, A Solitary Failure: The Waste, Cost and Harm of Solitary Confinement in Texas (PDF), this dangerous and expensive practice is making our state less safe.
Here’s a summary of the report, which explains why less solitary confinement is not about going “soft” on crime, it’s about being smart on crime.
- Background – Explore the the early failure of solitary confinement, the misguided return of solitary confinement int he late 20th century, and the renewed consensus: solitary is a dangerous and expensive correctional practice.
- Solitary Confinement increases crime – Solitary permanently damages people who will one day return to Texas communities. The consequences of overusing solitary is more crime in Texas communities.
- Solitary is a huge cost to taxpayers – Solitary confinement costs Texas taxpayers at leas $46 Million a year.
- Overuse of solitary increases prison violence – Solitary confinement makes prison less safe and deprives officers of the option to incentivize good behavior. Violence escalates when officers deny people in solitary basic needs. Other states have improved prison safety by reducing solitary confinement.
- Mentally ill people deteriorate – The universal consensus: never place the seriously mentally ill in solitary. Yet, Texas sends thousands of people with mental illnesses to solitary confinement and inadequately monitors and treats them.
A Solitary Failure: The Waste, Cost and Harm of Solitary Confinement in Texas was researched and written by Burke Butler, Arthur Liman Fellow, TCRP, and Matthew Simpson, Policy Strategist, ACLU of Texas, and edited by Rebecca L. Robertson, Legal and Policy Director, ACLU of Texas.
The SHU is the Special Housing Unit, and it is special because that is where you are housed when you have had an infraction serious enough to get you in 23 hour a day lockdown. Inmates usually get put in there for a serious violation like fighting, but can get thrown in for lessor offenses.
Most inmates who have been in for awhile try to stay out. They spend enough time when there is a general lockdown in their own cells. It just doesn’t pay to get put in.
During the one hour a day they get out, they can take a shower on certain days, or go to the exercise area. In most prisons that exercise area is just a large cage. About the most you can do is some exercises and a little running inside the cage.
As Christmas approaches, if your loved one is feeling down, try to get them to remember not to let their frustration and or anger get them down and do something which can result in a week or so in the SHU. This time of year is difficult for them, as they reflect on where they are and how they got there.
It’s also difficult for family and friends, as they spend another holiday without the love and support of their loved one. Just know that there are millions of us out there who are in the same situation and we have to give support to each other.