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Exploring the Causes and Consequences of Restrictive Housing in America’s Prisons and Jails

NCJ Number
Date Published
11 pages

This is the Final Summary of the findings and methodology of a component of a study that examined the impact on prisoners and corrections officers (COs) receiving and managing restrictive housing (RH) in America’s jails and prisons.


The goals of this component of the study were to determine 1) how RH is used in jails across the United States; 2) the effects of RH on outcomes for the involved inmates; and 3) the impact of RH on the well-being of COs managing it. RH, often called “segregation” or “solitary confinement,” consists of the separate housing and management of selected inmates from the general inmate population, imposing more restrictions on their movement, behavior, and privileges while isolating them in their rooms/cells for most of the day. Data were collected on specified variables related to RH in jails in Colorado, Louisiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Utah for the years 2015-2917. A comprehensive survey was sent to 3,146 jurisdictions (counties and tribal jurisdictions) and 3,439 individual facilities. Valid responses were received from 270 jurisdictions (7.9 percent of all facilities contacted). To determine the impact of working in restrictive housing units on COs’ physical, emotional, and mental well-being, surveys and interviews were conducted in North Carolina, Oregon, and Missouri. Overall, the survey found that RH is extensively used in jails, but it is not a deterrent to future inmate misconduct. It increased the probability an inmate would be returned to RH after initial exposure. The mental and physical health of COs working in RH units was compromised compared to COs working with the general jail population. Suggestions for future research are offered. 1 table

Date Published: January 1, 2020