The Long-Term Consequences of Solitary Confinement

Christopher Wildeman, Cornell University
Lars H. Andersen , Rockwool Foundation Research Unit

Being placed in restrictive housing is widely considered one of the most devastating experiences a human can endure, yet virtually no research tests how this experience affects core indicators of prisoner reentry such as employment and recidivism. We use Danish registry data, which allow us to link penal conditions to individual outcomes even years after release, to test the long-term effects of having been placed in restrictive housing. Results from difference-in-differences analyses indicate that Danish inmates placed in restrictive housing experience markedly larger drops in employment and markedly larger increases in the risk of being convicted of a new crime in the three years following prison release than do Danish inmates who were not placed in restrictive housing, including those who were sanctioned for a serious in-prison offense but not placed in restrictive housing. These results indicate that restrictive housing placement is a possible moderator of the effects of incarceration that merits more attention from criminologists.

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 Presented in Session 69. Using Linked Data Sources