Disparities in use of disciplinary solitary confinement by mental health diagnosis, race, sexual orientation and sex: Results from a national survey in the United States of America

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Abstract

Background: Solitary confinement is still used in prisons in the USA, despite its links to poor health. Past research suggests that there may be disparities by race, ethnicity, sex and mental disorders regarding who is placed in solitary confinement, although nationwide studies have been sparse. Aims: To explore possible disparities by race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, adverse childhood experiences and mental disorders in solitary confinement as a disciplinary action for adults incarcerated in USA prisons. Methods: Data come from a recently released national survey of 24,848 adults incarcerated in the USA—the 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates. Logistic regression models were used to identify disparities in the use of disciplinary action and solitary confinement as a disciplinary action, while controlling for type of rule violation. Results: After controlling for rule violation type, solitary confinement was used as a disciplinary action at higher rates for people who: were multiracial, as compared to white (aOR = 1.30), male, as compared to female (aOR = 1.46), bisexual, as compared to heterosexual (aOR = 1.64), had multiple mental disorders, as compared to none (aOR = 1.22) or had more adverse childhood experiences (aOR = 1.13). Conclusions: Findings highlight demographic and health disparities in the use of solitary confinement, which may further widen health disparities. More effective implementation of policies to reduce the use of solitary confinement are still needed. Mental health professionals should have an active role in advising on measures when mental disorder is a factor and must ensure adequate treatment of disorders in prison or transfer to health facilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114-123
Number of pages10
JournalCriminal Behaviour and Mental Health
Volume32
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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