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Director's Message: Restrictive Housing in the U.S.


Institutional corrections and, more specifically restrictive housing and other strategies that facilities use to manage and control incarcerated individuals, have become a national priority.

Restrictive housing, commonly known as solitary confinement or administrative segregation, is a common practice in corrections. A recent national estimate by the Bureau of Justice Statistics reveals that on an average day in 2011-2012, as many as one in five individuals has spent time in restrictive housing while in jail or prison.[1] Despite its use throughout corrections facilities nationwide, we lack scientific evidence about its effectiveness and long-term impact.

To further our understanding of these issues, I am pleased to announce the release of Restrictive Housing in the U.S.: Issues, Challenges, and Future Directions. This volume includes 10 chapters, each with a distinct focus and written by leading experts from various disciplines including criminology, psychology, sociology, and law:

Together, these chapters provide the most comprehensive review, to date, of what we know about the use of restrictive housing in U.S. correctional facilities and the effects of this practice on incarcerated individuals, corrections staff, and the institution as a whole.

Just as important is what this work tells us about what we do not know about this practice, its effects, and potential alternatives. As a collection, these chapters enable us to develop a future research agenda to expand our knowledge of this correctional strategy and identify evidence-based solutions to the challenges currently presented by restrictive housing.

A volume of this breadth would not be possible without the concerted effort of many people. I want to thank the attendees of NIJ’s two-day restrictive housing topical working group in October 2015. These experts were generous with their time and knowledge, and they helped build the foundation of this effort.  My sincere appreciation also goes to the contributing authors for their insight, expertise, and dedication to this important issue.

We need research evidence to guide the use of restrictive housing and to ensure that the application of this practice is just, fair, and safe for incarcerated persons and corrections staff. This volume moves us closer to achieving those goals. NIJ remains committed to investing in high-quality, multidisciplinary science to address the challenges faced by policymakers and criminal justice professionals working within corrections. I hope readers find this volume both informative and helpful in providing potential ways forward on the use and impact of restrictive housing.

Read Restrictive Housing in the U.S.: Issues, Challenges, and Future Directions (pdf, 424 pages).