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Criminologist challenges effectiveness of solitary confinement

Date:
March 31, 2015
Source:
University of Texas at Dallas
Summary:
A criminologist finds that solitary confinement does not deter inmates from committing further violence in prison. The prisoners in the study who received solitary confinement were no more -- or less -- violent behind bars after the punishment, according to the study. Solitary confinement also did not affect how soon an inmate committed further violent acts while incarcerated.
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Solitary confinement typically restricts inmates to their cells for 23 hours a day.

In January, the study was published ahead of print in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology.

The prisoners in the study who received solitary confinement were no more -- or less -- violent behind bars after the punishment, according to the study. Solitary confinement also did not affect how soon an inmate committed further violent acts while incarcerated.

Morris said he hopes the findings generate discussion about the effectiveness of solitary confinement in regular prison settings. The research did not focus on higher security prisons that more extensively use solitary confinement.

"You're not getting a reward one way or the other for exposing inmates to solitary, so you have question its utility," Morris said. "It's costing money, it's costing time and there are potentially harmful side effects."

The study cites previous research that has found that solitary confinement can cause serious health and psychological problems for inmates, many of whom are vulnerable because of existing mental health conditions and/or addictions.

Reducing the use of solitary confinement also may save taxpayer funds, Morris said. Solitary confinement may be necessary for temporary periods to break up violent situations, but that based on the research, it should be used with caution, he said. Texas law prohibits solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days.

"A lot of people may argue that it's a necessary tool in the prison," Morris said. "Its administration could probably be improved because there's so much discretion involved, and there's so little known about what exposure can lead to."

Morris said more research is needed on how solitary confinement affects prisoners once they are released.

"The vast majority of these folks will return to society, so you don't want to aggravate their prison experience any more than you have to. If you're aggravating circumstances inside, then it could be that you're aggravating circumstances when they come out," he said. "Then, you're raising the chance you might see them again, and at that point, you're just wasting tax dollars."


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Texas at Dallas. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Robert G. Morris. Exploring the Effect of Exposure to Short-Term Solitary Confinement Among Violent Prison Inmates. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s10940-015-9250-0

Cite This Page:

University of Texas at Dallas. "Criminologist challenges effectiveness of solitary confinement." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 March 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150331131334.htm>.
University of Texas at Dallas. (2015, March 31). Criminologist challenges effectiveness of solitary confinement. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 27, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150331131334.htm
University of Texas at Dallas. "Criminologist challenges effectiveness of solitary confinement." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150331131334.htm (accessed May 27, 2017).

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