The Impact of Restrictive Housing on Inmate Behavior

A Systematic Review of the Evidence

Authored by: Ryan M. Labrecque , Paula Smith

Handbook on the Consequences of Sentencing and Punishment Decisions

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  August  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138608931
eBook ISBN: 9780429466380
Adobe ISBN:


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Restrictive housing (RH) is one of the most controversial of contemporary correctional practices. Policy makers and corrections officials often contend that its use is necessary to ensure the safety and security of institutions and communities. Critics of the practice vehemently disagree, arguing instead that RH causes substantial psychological damage and increases subsequent criminal behavior. Despite the fact that many North American correctional systems routinely use RH, there is remarkably little known about what impact this practice has on individuals, facilities, or communities. This chapter contributes to this gap in knowledge by conducting a systematic review of the empirical evidence on the impact of RH on behavioral outcomes, including aggregate-level measures of institutional violence, and individual-level measures of institutional adjustment and post-release recidivism. The main finding of this investigation is that RH does not appear to be an effective means of reducing criminal behavior. This review also highlights some of the potential collateral consequences that may stem from the use of RH confinement and discusses the research and policy implications of these findings.

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