Solitary confinement and the U.S. prison boom
Simes, Jessica T.
Sakoda, Ryan T.
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Citation (published version)Jessica T. Simes, Ryan T. Sakoda. 2019. "Solitary Confinement and the U.S. Prison Boom." Criminal Justice Policy Review, https://doi.org/10.1177/0887403419895315
Solitary confinement is a harsh form custody involving isolation from the general prison population and highly restricted access to visitation and programs. Using detailed prison records covering 30 years of practices in Kansas (1985–2014), we find solitary confinement is a normal event during imprisonment: 38 percent of whites and 46 percent of blacks experienced solitary confinement during their prison term. Long stays in solitary confinement were rare in the late 1980s with no detectable racial disparities, but a sharp increase in capacity after a new prison opening began an era of long-term isolation that most heavily impacted black young adults. A decomposition analysis indicates the increase in the length of stay in solitary confinement almost entirely explains the growth in the proportion of people held in solitary confinement. Our results provide new evidence of increasingly punitive prison conditions and previously unmeasured forms of inequality during the prison boom.