How do the logistics of solitary confinement work?

Presumably, a prisoner needs haircuts, otherwise he’ll have waist-long hair eventually.

He also needs toilet paper, showers, soap/shampoo/toothpaste, maybe medical attention if something happens, and if the authorities are nice I presume he gets to have some books or something.

How do they do that while still keeping it “solitary?”

My son works in a prison in Florida. They call their solitary confinement unit the segregation unit. Prisoners in segregation get taken in cuffs/shackles for a shower every 48 hours wether they need one or not. They get medical care as needed. Meals on wheels delivers their meals to their cell.

I assume each prison has their own rules and regulations.

For solitary confinement in federal prisons, see the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 28, Part 541, Subpart B: “Special Housing Units” (read: solitary confinement).

Specifically section 31, “Conditions of confinement in the SHU”, and 32, “Medical and mental health care in the SHU”:

§ 541.31 Conditions of confinement in the SHU.

Your living conditions in the SHU will meet or exceed standards for healthy and humane treatment, including, but not limited to, the following specific conditions:

(a) Environment. Your living quarters will be well-ventilated, adequately lighted, appropriately heated, and maintained in a sanitary condition.

(b) Cell Occupancy. Your living quarters will ordinarily house only the amount of occupants for which it is designed. The Warden, however, may authorize more occupants so long as adequate standards can be maintained.

(c) Clothing. You will receive adequate institution clothing, including footwear, while housed in the SHU. You will be provided necessary opportunities to exchange clothing and/or have it washed.

(d) Bedding. You will receive a mattress, blankets, a pillow, and linens for sleeping. You will receive necessary opportunities to exchange linens.

(e) Food. You will receive nutritionally adequate meals.

(f) Personal hygiene. You will have access to a wash basin and toilet. You will receive personal items necessary to maintain an acceptable level of personal hygiene, for example, toilet tissue, soap, toothbrush and cleanser, shaving utensils, etc. You will ordinarily have an opportunity to shower and shave at least three times per week. You will have access to hair care services as necessary.

(g) Exercise. You will receive the opportunity to exercise outside your individual quarters at least five hours per week, ordinarily on different days in one-hour periods. You can be denied these exercise periods for a week at a time by order of the Warden if it is determined that your use of exercise privileges threatens safety, security, and orderly operation of a correctional facility, or public safety.

(h) Personal property. In either status, your amount of personal property may be limited for reasons of fire safety or sanitation.

(1) In administrative detention status you are ordinarily allowed a reasonable amount of personal property and reasonable access to the commissary.

(2) In disciplinary segregation status your personal property will be impounded, with the exception of limited reading/writing materials, and religious articles. Also, your commissary privileges may be limited.

(i) Correspondence. You will receive correspondence privileges according to part 540, subpart B.

(j) Telephone. You will receive telephone privileges according to part 540, subpart I.

(k) Visiting. You will receive visiting privileges according to part 540, subpart D.

(l) Legal Activities. You will receive an opportunity to perform personal legal activities according to part 543, subpart B.

(m) Staff monitoring. You will be monitored by staff assigned to the SHU, including program and unit team staff.

(n) Programming Activities. In administrative detention status, you will have access to programming activities to the extent safety, security, orderly operation of a correctional facility, or public safety are not jeopardized. In disciplinary segregation status, your participation in programming activities, e.g., educational programs, may be suspended.

(o) Administrative remedy program. You can submit a formal grievance challenging any aspect of your confinement in the SHU through the Administrative Remedy Program, 28 CFR part 542, subpart B.

§ 541.32 Medical and mental health care in the SHU.

(a) Medical Care. A health services staff member will visit you daily to provide necessary medical care. Emergency medical care is always available.

(b) Mental Health Care. After every 30 calendar days of continuous placement in either administrative detention or disciplinary segregation status, mental health staff will examine you, including a personal interview. Emergency mental health care is always available.


Solitary confinement doesn’t actually mean “toss a guy in a dark hole and shove food on a tray under the door for years, where he never gets any light or sees another human” like you see in the movies. At least not in the US.