Disciplinary Segregation and Its Effects on In-Prison Outcomes

AuthorLaura M. Salerno,Kristen M. Zgoba
Published date01 January 2020
Date01 January 2020
Subject MatterArticles
The Prison Journal
2020, Vol. 100(1) 74 –97
© 2019 SAGE Publications
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0032885519882326
Disciplinary Segregation
and Its Effects on
In-Prison Outcomes
Laura M. Salerno1 and Kristen M. Zgoba2
The present study explored the effects of solitary confinement on in-
prison outcomes among inmates housed in disciplinary segregation in a
northeast state (N = 398). The deterrent effects of segregation and program
participation on future in-prison behaviors were examined. Differences
among samples of inmates housed in disciplinary segregation before and
after the enactment of policy revisions were also assessed. Findings from
bivariate and multivariate analyses indicate most inmates did not have a new
infraction; however, certain inmates were more likely to receive a future
discipline. Furthermore, completing programming while in disciplinary
segregation did not have an effect on future infractions or programming
participation. The implications of the research findings are discussed.
solitary confinement, disciplinary segregation, disciplinary infractions, in-
prison programming
Corrections agencies have developed aggressive approaches for removing
problematic inmates from general population prison settings (Frost & Montiero,
2016; Pizarro, Stenius, & Pratt, 2006; Riveland, 1999). Although names and
1New Jersey Department of Corrections, Trenton, USA
2Florida International University, Miami, USA
Corresponding Author:
Laura M. Salerno, Research & Evaluation Unit, New Jersey Department of Corrections, P.O.
Box 863, Trenton, NJ 08625, USA.
Email: laura.salerno@doc.nj.gov
882326TPJXXX10.1177/0032885519882326The Prison JournalSalerno and Zgoba
Salerno and Zgoba 75
titles vary, the strategies are generally similar: An inmate is separated from the
general population in an effort to discipline, prevent harm, or protect himself or
herself, or others. This practice of sequestering inmates is not an entirely new
concept in our correctional history (Frost & Montiero, 2016). The earliest pris-
ons operated under the Pennsylvania model of secluded confinement, and
although this model has been abandoned in place of congregate housing units,
removing troublesome prisoners from a group setting and placing them in a
more restricted, solitary environment has become a conventional tactic for con-
trolling order and promoting safety within corrections.
In every U.S. state, in nearly every prison in the country, strategies are
used to separate inmates from the general population when necessary. The
most recent estimates of inmates in restrictive housing environments come
from researchers at the Association of State Correctional Administrators
(ASCA) and the Arthur Liman Program at Yale Law School (ASCA-Liman,
2018). Data were collected from 46 jurisdictions, including the Federal
Bureau of Prisons, resulting in a representation of nearly 81% of the U.S.
prison population. A reported 49,197 inmates were in some form of restric-
tive housing, equating to 4.5% of the inmates in custody. Wide variances
exist in the number of inmates housed in restrictive housing settings accord-
ing to jurisdictional responses across states. Colorado reported the lowest
proportion of state inmates isolated (0.5%), whereas Louisiana had the high-
est (19%; see ASCA-Liman, 2018, for more information). Overall, the
median percentage of inmates serving time in restrictive settings was 4.2%.
Although this figure is a decrease from the prior ASCA-Liman (2016) restric-
tive housing survey, there were still 61,000 inmates in a restrictive housing
setting in 2017. Unfortunately, the majority of these prisoners were serving
lengthy sentences in such settings: Approximately 23% of prisoners were in
restrictive housing for 15 to 30 days, 32% for 1 to 3 months, 27% for 3
months to 1 year, and the remaining 18% spending 1 year or more in segrega-
tion. Most surprisingly, of those 18%, nearly 1,950 inmates were in restric-
tive housing for 3 years or more (ASCA-Liman, 2018).
Despite its widespread use, the intended effects of the separation of spe-
cific inmates from the general population of inmates are not well under-
stood. It is well known that solitary confinement and the conditions it
imposes (e.g., confinement to a cell for 23 hr a day with little to no oppor-
tunities for socialization [King, 1999; Mears & Bales, 2010; Riveland,
1999]) have far-reaching, unintended consequences on an individual,
including anger, frustration, and other mental health ramifications (Haney,
2003; Kupers, 2008; Smith, 2006), but what about those consequences that
are intended? Corrections officials unanimously believe that such segrega-
tion serves to “increase safety, order, and control throughout the prison

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