Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $100,000)
Statement of the Problem:
Placement into restrictive housing is a controversial sanction that can be experienced during incarceration.
Nevertheless, little is known about who is placed in restrictive housing and under what conditions. Although this practice is used to isolate inmates who pose a risk to the operation and security of an institution, assessments of "risk" underlying placement decisions are often racialized and gendered. Coupled with the seclusion of prisons from public scrutiny and the wide discretion afforded to prison officials, conditions are ripe for disparate treatment. Accordingly, the current study examines restrictive housing placement decisions to generate a broader understanding of racial and gender disparities in punishment. We will do so by: 1) producing impactful scholarship as part of a long-term research agenda; and 2) developing strategies to improve fairness in correctional decision-making.
Research Design and Methods:
Using administrative records on all inmates released from prison in a southwestern state between 2011 and 2014(N=39,246), this study will assess whether there are racial, ethnic, and gender disparities in: 1) prisoners' placements into restrictive housing; 2) placements into particular types of restrictive housing (administrative segregation, disciplinary segregation, protective custody, mental health segregation, and medical segregation); 3) the reasons provided for these placements; and 4) length of time spent there.
After conducting descriptive and bivariate analyses, multivariate models will be estimated to assess the relationships
between race, ethnicity, gender, and our dependent variables (net of legally- and administratively- relevant covariates). We will use multilevel modeling procedures (e.g., hierarchical linear regression, hierarchical logistic regression) given that multiple housing placements are recorded for each prisoner. Interaction terms will be estimated between race, ethnicity, gender and our covariates to assess possible conditioning effects, and race- and gender-specific subsample analyses will be estimated to assess within-race and within-gender differences.
This project will make a significant contribution to research and policy. First, this project extends scholarship on
disparities in criminal justice decision-making to the correctional setting. Second, this project responds directly to
recent calls for research made by the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the use of restrictive housing and whether it is applied fairly. Third, this research will inform correctional practice.
Products, Reports, and Data Archiving:
A national dissemination strategy will target professionals and scholars. Deliverables during the project period will
include two manuscripts, a policy brief, a series of presentations, and a final report. Datasets will be archived for future