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What We Know - and Don't Know - About Restrictive Housing

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2016
2 pages

This video and its transcript cover a panel presentation at one of the 2016 sessions of NIJ's Research for the Real World Seminars; it addresses what is currently known and not known about the uses and effectiveness of restrictive (segregated) housing in addressing security issues in jails and prisons.


The overall conclusion of the panel is that rigorous research on the uses and effectiveness of inmate segregation is sparse, and what is known is mostly anecdotal or based on case studies. The current level of knowledge on inmate segregation has promoted the belief that segregation is needed sometimes and that it is also often used inappropriately. What is lacking in the current knowledge base related to inmate segregation is the conditions in prisons and jails that underlie violence and disorder, the prevalence of such conditions in U.S. correctional facilities, and the outcomes of restrictive housing for inmates subjected to it, as well as for prison conditions. Such research would inform policy on the extent of the use of segregated housing within prisons and jails and for whom it should be used. It is important that research on these issues be an ongoing part of the management of correctional facilities. Appropriate data collection and analysis on the prevalence and causes of disorder and violence within inmate populations should be incorporated into facility management. Data should be regularly collected and analyzed on the frequency and occasions of the use of inmate segregation, the profiles of the inmates placed in restrictive housing, and its impact on the interactions among inmates and between inmates and staff in the facility's general population.

Date Published: April 1, 2016