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The Impacts of Restrictive Housing on Inmate Behavior, Mental Health, and Recidivism, and Prison Systems Personnel

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2020
68 pages

This is the Final Summary Overview of a Florida study that examined the impacts of prison restrictive housing on the inmates involved, prison systems, and their staff.


Objectives were to 1) provide policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and the public with empirical information on the impacts of long-term solitary confinement restrictive housing on inmate misconduct, mental health, and recidivism; 2) provide these groups with information about whether restrictive housing impacts may vary by features and duration, as well as among inmate groups; and 3) provide insight into how restrictive housing is used, how it may affect prison systems and personnel, how its effectiveness might be improved, and what alternatives may be more effective and cost-efficient. The study examined three data sets, including administrative records data from the Florida Department of Corrections, information from focus groups, and surveys of prison officials and personnel. The study focused on restrictive housing that involves extended confinement of an individual in a cell, typically for 6 months or more, for management reasons. Results from the qualitative aspects of the study support recommendations in prior research that risk and need instruments should be used to determine which individuals warrant placement in long-term solitary confinement, based on objective criteria that align with the goals of this type of housing. In developing such assessment instruments, it is important to consider the role of facility conditions, such as staffing levels and experience, as well as the availability of rehabilitative programming. To the extent that restrictive housing of any type remains in correctional systems, housing conditions must be shown to improve behavior and preparation for reentry into the general inmate population. Other recommendations pertain to mental health treatment tailored to inmate groups, and training for staff in their interactions with inmates in restrictive housing. 7 tables and 100 references  

Date Published: November 1, 2020