Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Exploring the effect of exposure to short-term solitary confinement among violent prison inmates

Exploring the effect of exposure to short-term solitary confinement among violent prison inmates

Robert G. Morris, “Exploring the effect of exposure to short-term solitary confinement among violent prison inmates.” Journal of Quantitative Criminology 32, no. 1 (2016), 1-22.

This study published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology examines the impact of short-term punitive segregation on future violence or misconduct for those found guilty of a violent act upon incarceration. The goal of this research was to assess the validity of arguments in support of and against punitive segregation in correctional facilities, specifically when it comes to mitigation or exacerbation of future violent behavior. Data from 2004 to 2006 was gathered from the correctional facilities’ (state prisons, state jails, and state-contracted private prisons) population of a “large Southern state” in the U.S., including disciplinary referrals for males within the first three years of their sentence, and whether they were housed in solitary confinement as a punishment for their infraction.  

The results of the study indicate that segregation as punishment does not impact future violent behavior among incarcerated people with a history of physical violence. For approximately 4 percent of participants exposed to punitive segregation, placement may have increased or decreased their tendency for continued violenceThus, these researchers conclude that there is neither a positive nor a negative relationship between punitive segregation and violent behavior. The article indicates that the apparent ineffectiveness of punitive segregation as a deterrent as well as the arbitrary nature of assigning people to segregation cast doubt upon the efficiency and validity of the practice 

Click here to read the journal article. 

Keywords: disciplinary segregation, disciplinary process, institutional misconduct, infractions, South, institutional violence.