Center on Sentencing and Corrections

The Cardiovascular Health Burdens of Solitary Confinement

The Cardiovascular Health Burdens of Solitary Confinement

Williams, Brie A., Amanda Li, Cyrus Ahalt, Pamela Coxson, James G. Kahn, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo. “The Cardiovascular Health Burdens of Solitary Confinement.” Journal of General Internal Medicine 34, (2019),1977–1980. doi:10.1007/s11606-019-05103-6.

This study explores the health consequences of segregation. Researchers compared the lifetime cardiovascular health burden, as well as levels of loneliness, of people who spent time in segregation relative to those who spent no time in segregation—using data from a California lawsuit. When compared to those in less restrictive conditions in a maximum-security unit, those in supermax units had a 31% higher rate of hypertension. One-third of people in supermax units were more likely to experience heart attacks, strokes, and higher scores of loneliness. These researchers assert that if the findings of the study applied to all 25,000 people held in supermax units, this would cause $155 million in additional future healthcare costs—an underestimate of the total healthcare costs of segregation, as this number excludes segregation units outside of supermax units.

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Keywords: MAX, high blood pressure, medicine, diagnosis, Ashker v. Governor of California, Todd Ashker, Danny Troxell, Security Housing Unit, SHU, Pelican Bay State Prison, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.