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Topics in Criminal Justice: Solitary Confinement

What is solitary confinement?

Solitary confinement is the method of isolating prisoners for up to 22-23 hours a day for extended periods of time without human contact. Sometimes this is referred to as prison “segregation” or “restrictive housing.” New York State uses the term Special Housing Units for solitary units. This practice is controversial; some feel it is necessary as a means of punishment within prisons and some find it unethical, inhumane, and torture. According to the ACLU, “In the past 30 years, the United States has dramatically expanded its use of solitary confinement, even creating new “supermax” prisons designed to hold entire prison populations in extreme isolation.”

Research Assistance

If you're interested in finding studies about solitary confinement in criminal justice, you might want to check out the database Criminal Justice Abstracts with Full Text where you can search for solitary confinement and additional keywords for your topic such as “ psychological effects” or “juveniles” and limit by data format, year, and the subject of the study. You can also use Web of Science by searching solitary confinement and using the Web of Science categories on the left to limit your search to Criminology Penology.


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