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Segregation in Correctional Facilities and Mental and Physical Health: A Review of the Clinical Evidence and Guidelines

Last updated: December 18, 2015
Project Number: RC0730-000
Product Line: Rapid Response
Research Type: Devices and Systems
Report Type: Summary with Critical Appraisal
Result type: Report

Question

  1. What is the clinical evidence regarding the effects of segregation or solitary confinement on mental and physical health of inmates in correctional facilities?
  2. What are the evidence-based guidelines regarding segregation or solitary confinement in correctional facilities?

Key Message

Definitive conclusions on the impact of solitary confinement or segregation on the mental health of inmates are not possible as the findings were inconsistent. On one hand, from some studies there were suggestions of higher rates of self-harm, suicide ideation or suicides in inmates in solitary confinement or segregation compared to inmates in the general population, however due to limitations in these studies, a causal relationship cannot be inferred. On the other hand from one study there was a suggestion of no differential effects on psychological parameters in the two groups over a period of about a year.