Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Long-term consequences of being placed in disciplinary segregation

Long-term consequences of being placed in disciplinary segregation

Wildeman, Christopher, and Lars H. Anderson. “Long-term consequences of being placed in disciplinary segregation.” Criminology, (2020), 1-31. 

This Cornell University study finds that short-term disciplinary segregation in correctional facilities can increase recidivism and unemployment for formerly incarcerated people. Researchers examined data from Danish prisons from 2006-2013, where solitary confinement as punishment for infractions is widely used, but generally for short periods of time. 

In addition to reiterating the long-term harms that solitary confinement causes to incarcerated peoples’ mental and physical health, this study finds it may also significantly challenge their reentry into society. The main findings indicate that in their three years post-release, formerly incarcerated people who had been placed in short-term disciplinary segregation (punitive solitary confinement), as opposed to receiving other punishments for disciplinary infractions, showed increased rates of recidivism and decreased rates of employment and participation in the labor force. 

In identifying the harmful impacts of even short-term solitary confinement, this study contributes to the growing conversation on the need to reduce its use in correctional facilities. 

Click here to view the study. 

Keywords: Restrictive housing, disciplinary segregation, punitive solitary confinement, solitary confinement, recidivism.