This is the Final Summary Overview of a NIJ-funded research project that examined the impact of restrictive housing on the mental health of prison inmates and staff, as well as how working in restrictive housing varies from working in the general prison population.
In determining the impact of living in restrictive housing on inmate mental health, the study focused on 326 men sentenced to either medium, close, or maximum custody at eight prison units within three prison complexes. The average age of the sample was 33.4 years. Their comprehensive profiles are presented in this report. A mental health professional had told 51.5 percent of the sample that they have a mental illness or emotional problem. The staff sample used to determine the impact of working in restrictive housing consisted of 225 men and women working security positions across medium, close, and maximum-security custody in the same eight prisons across the same three prison complexes as the inmates. The measurement methods, prison conditions, and their effects on inmates and staff samples are described. The study found that prisoners in restrictive housing reported, on average, higher levels of psychosomatic symptoms experienced compared to prisoners in close or medium custody; however, the symptoms did not worsen as more time was spent in restrictive housing. Recognizing the individuality of responses to similar conditions, this study can inform practice regarding who is likely to get worse in restrictive housing, who might stay the same, and who might get better, with attention to those inmates that data analysis suggests could be expected to worsen in isolation. The advice regarding staff is that all officers are impacted by work in any type of prison setting, and they should be monitored and assisted according to individual health concerns and interaction with particular work conditions. 3 tables and 11 references