Almost 20 percent of inmates in federal prisons and 18 percent of inmates in local jails spent time in restrictive housing, such as solitary confinement, in 2011 and 2012, the Bureau of Justice Statistics announced today. A significant portion of the inmates who had been placed in restrictive housing within the last year (nearly 30 percent of the prison inmates and 22 percent of the jail inmates) had symptoms of serious psychological distress.
Among inmates who spent time in restrictive housing, a significant portion (between 23 and 31 percent) were individuals diagnosed with a mental health disorder who were taking medication for their condition.
In general, inmates placed in restrictive housing were incarcerated for violent offenses (other than sex offenses) and were more likely to have extensive criminal histories. Inmates who spent time in restrictive housing also tended to be young, identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual and had not completed high school.
A common reason for authorities' use of restrictive housing was inmate misconduct, such as assaulting other inmates and staff, BJS states. More than half of prison and jail inmates who had fought with staff had been placed in restrictive housing; the number was slightly lower for individuals who had been in a fight with another inmate.
The report found that prisons with higher rates of restrictive housing had more violent inmates (other than sex offenders) and inmates with longer criminal histories, experienced more disorder, and had lower levels of trust between inmates and staff.
The report is available HERE.