Is Solitary Confinement Linked to Recidivism?

Solitary Confinement Linked to RecidivismCan putting someone in solitary confinement increase the odds of that person offending again once released?

Data show that 68 percent of all people who go to prison are rearrested within three years of release. Supporters of solitary confinement claim that the threat of solitary, which can involve spending up to 23 hours a day in an isolated cell, deters criminals from reoffending. But the data tell a different tale.

Studies on Recidivism and Solitary Confinement

Forty-nine percent of inmates released from Texas prisons in 2006 reoffended within three years of release. That number is higher for inmates who go through solitary confinement – 61 percent.

In Connecticut, data from 2001 showed that regular inmates reoffended at a rate of 66 percent within three years. That number jumped to an astonishing 92 percent for inmates who were held in solitary confinement.

Another study on recidivism and solitary confinement took place in Washington and compared recidivism rates for inmates in a regular prison versus inmates in a super-max prison, where all inmates are in solitary confinement. In that study, the super-max inmates were much more likely to commit new felonies within 12 months, as compared to 27 months for the inmates from the regular prison.

Does this mean that solitary confinement causes people to commit crimes after release? Not necessarily. While solitary confinement can be a traumatic experience that could lead to long-term behavioral troubles, it is also true that inmates who end up in solitary often do so because they are already more likely to break rules. However, there is one conclusion that all the studies done on solitary confinement and recidivism seem to agree on: solitary confinement, in no circumstances, results in a better “outcome” for prisoners who are later released.


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