Center on Sentencing and Corrections

The Determinants and Consequences of Solitary Confinement: Risk Factor, Future Criminal Justice Involvement, and Mortality

The Determinants and Consequences of Solitary Confinement: Risk Factor, Future Criminal Justice Involvement, and Mortality

“Dramatic growth of the prison population in the United States over the last four decades accompanies significant qualitative transformations in the conditions of imprisonment. At this historic moment, some of the most extreme forms of punishment are not only tolerated but embraced – often without critical considerations of their effectiveness, nor their potential collateral consequences. Indeed, prisons have become focused less on rehabilitation and more on punishment and containment. The startling, expanded use of solitary confinement exemplifies this trend toward more punitive penal practices. Despite widespread use, the determinants and consequences of solitary confinement have not been thoroughly investigated. This study leverages rich administrative data on individuals who were sentenced to prison and observed over time to investigate: the risk factors of exposure to solitary confinement, its effect on future criminal justice contact, and long-term consequences on mortality after release from prison.”

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Keywords: solitary confinement, segregation, restrictive housing, isolation, conditions of confinement