Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 1–22 | Cite as

Exploring the Effect of Exposure to Short-Term Solitary Confinement Among Violent Prison Inmates

  • Robert G. MorrisEmail author
Original Paper



This study tracked the behavior of male inmates housed in the general inmate populations of 70 different prison units from a large southern state. Each of the inmates studied engaged in violent misconduct at least once during the first 2 years of incarceration (n = 3,808). The goal of the study was to isolate the effect of exposure to short-term solitary confinement (SC) as a punishment for their initial act of violent behavior on the occurrence and timing of subsequent misconduct.


This study relied upon archival longitudinal data and employed a multilevel counterfactual research design (propensity score matching) that involved tests for group differences, event history analyses, and trajectory analyses.


The results suggest that exposure to short-term solitary confinement as a punishment for an initial violence does not appear to play a role in increasing or decreasing the probability, timing, or development future misconduct for this particular group on inmates.


Upon validation, these findings call for continued research and perhaps a dialog regarding the utility of solitary confinement policies under certain contexts. This unique study sets the stage for further research to more fully understand how solitary impacts post-exposure behavior.


Solitary confinement Punitive segregation Corrections Inmate misconduct 



The author would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript. Gratitude is also expressed to James W. Marquart, Alex R. Piquero, J.C. Barnes and others for valuable feedback on this study as it was in development.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Criminology ProgramUniversity of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA

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