Dr. Brie Williams Highlights the Differences Between Medical Isolation Procedures and Solitary Confinement

Amend at UCSF released a guidance brief entitled The Ethical Use of Medical Isolation -  Not Solitary Confinement - To Reduce COVID-19 Transmission in Correctional Settings. It explains why correctional facilities throughout the United States should avoid using solitary confinement to combat the spread of COVID-19. Importantly the paper juxtaposes the ethical use of “medical isolation,” when medically necessary, as a means to stem virus transmission.

“Medical isolation” and “quarantine” procedures are substantively different from the use of “solitary confinement”. Misperceptions persist inside and outside correctional facilities, however, about what these procedures mean and how they affect the people living and working in prisons and jails.

“COVID-19 presents daunting public health challenges both inside and outside correctional facilities,” writes Dr. Brie Williams, Director of Amend at UCSF and co-author of the paper. “Separating people who become infected is a necessary public health challenge, particularly in prisons and jails. But turning to the punitive practice of solitary confinement in response to the COVID-19 crisis will only make things worse.”

This guidance paper is the latest in a growing selection of resources that Amend is making available to departments of corrections leadership and staff, prison and jail residents, advocates and other key stakeholders. Read the full document here, and visit Amend’s COVID-19 resource page for more information.


Amend at UCSF is a correctional culture change program that reduces the debilitating health effects of prisons and jails on residents and staff alike. To learn more about Amend’s work, visit https://amend.us/ or follow us on Twitter @AmendatUCSF.


Daryl Norcott
[email protected]