O’Keefe, Maureen L., Kelli J. Klebe, Alysha Stucker, Kristin Sturm, and William Leggett. One year longitudinal study of the psychological effects of administrative segregation. Colorado Springs: Colorado Department of Corrections and University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, 2010.
This report details the method and findings of the authors’ study of the psychological effects of long-term administrative segregation (AS) in Colorado. The authors had three hypotheses: “(1) [people] in AS would develop an array of psychological symptoms consistent with the security housing unit (SHU) syndrome, (2) [people] with and without mental illness would deteriorate over time in AS, but at a rate more rapid and extreme for the mentally ill, and (3) [people] in AS would experience greater psychological deterioration over time than the comparison groups.” However, the results were inconsistent with the authors’ hypotheses. They found that people “with mental illness did not deteriorate over time in AS at a rate more rapid and more extreme than for those without mental illness.” The report also notes the limitations of this study and discusses implications for future research and policy.
Note: This study—as well as others indicating that solitary confinement has no adverse psychological effects on incarcerated individuals or those with mental illness behind bars—has been criticized for flawed assumptions and research methodologies.
Keywords: Administrative segregation, solitary confinement, isolation, mental illness, solitary confinement and mental illness, mental health, vulnerable populations