Inmates in Solitary Have Higher Risk of Death After Release: Study

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Harlem, NY protest against solitary confinement. Photo by Felton Davis via Flickr

Prisoners who are held in solitary confinement have an increased risk of death after release, write three scholars from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in JAMA Network. The researchers studied the records of 229 274 people who were released from incarceration in North Carolina from 2000 to 2015.

Compared with individuals who were incarcerated but not in solitary, those who spent any time in “restrictive housing” were 24 percent more likely to die in the first year after release, especially from suicide and homicide. They also were more likely to die of an opioid overdose in the first 2 weeks after release.

The authors, Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, Josie Sivaraman, and David L. Rosen, say that solitary confinement “has been the topic of much policy debate in recent years, during which research has begun to uncover the harms of prolonged exposure. Our results go a step further than other research that we are aware of and highlight the association of restrictive housing with mortality after release.”

The researches conclude that their “findings are important in the context of ongoing debates about the harms of restrictive housing, indicating a need to find alternatives to its use and flagging restrictive housing as an important risk factor during community reentry.”

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