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November 29, 2021

"The population prevalence of solitary confinement"

Th title of this post is the title of this notable new research article in the new issue of the journal Science Advances and authored by Hannah Pullen-Blasnik, Jessica T. Simes and Bruce Western.  Here is its abstract:

Solitary confinement is a severe form of incarceration closely associated with long-lasting psychological harm and poor post-release outcomes.  Estimating the population prevalence, we find that 11% of all black men in Pennsylvania, born 1986 to 1989, were incarcerated in solitary confinement by age 32.  Reflecting large racial disparities, the population prevalence is only 3.4% for Latinos and 1.4% for white men.  About 9% of black men in the state cohort were held in solitary for more than 15 consecutive days, violating the United Nations standards for minimum treatment of incarcerated people.  Nearly 1 in 100 black men experienced solitary for a year or longer by age 32.  Racial disparities are similar for women, but rates are lower.  A decomposition shows that black men’s high risk of solitary confinement stems primarily from their high imprisonment rate.  Findings suggest that harsh conditions of U.S. incarceration have population-level effects on black men’s well-being.

November 29, 2021 at 04:16 PM | Permalink


Doug, if you are that concerned with the unequal enforcement of the law, then where are your posts about the studied ignorance of the DOJ towards Hunter Biden’s tax evasion.

Posted by: Federalist | Nov 29, 2021 7:14:43 PM

If you are eager for off-target political conversations, federalist, I suppose you could provide your accounting of whether Trump proved to be a more moral president than Obama. I recall you predicted in this space back in 2016 that he could prove to be. But, candidly, since I find tribal bickering quite tiresome these days, I am inclined to stick with sentencing topics. But you and other folks remain free to use this space for other topics.

Posted by: Doug B. | Nov 29, 2021 10:23:41 PM

Interestingly, except for the most violent of inmates, the Federal Bureau of Prisons keeps men in administrative detention (the Special Housing Unit, where men are locked in an 8' x 12' cell 23+ hours per day) TWO to a cell, not solitary confinement. This means that men held in SHU have social contact and can converse with their cell mates, reducing the harm caused by the isolation; but there is still harm from long-term isolation and the two cellmates sometimes become violent and cause physical injuries to one another due to the confined space. BOP staff can also be incredibly petty and trump up charges to send inmates who cause them legal problems to SHU. When I was an inmate at FCI - Manchester, Kentucky in 2003, I was sent to SHU "under investigation" for 6 months, after I gave permissible legal assistance to 14 Mariel Cuban inmates, who were being held as INS Detainees, without any Federal criminal convictions. After the Sixth Circuit Court of appeals rendered its En Banc decision in Rosales-Garcia v. Holland, 322 F.3d 386 (6th Cir. 2003), holding that the Feds could not hold INS detainees in prison for more than 6 months without a Federal criminal conviction, I prepared 14 Section 2241 Habeas Corpus Petitions for the Mariel Cubans being held at Manchester, Ky. One of those men had been held as an INS Detainee for 17 years, without a Federal criminal conviction. When those 14 Petitions were filed in the Eastern District of Kentucky, the DOJ in Washington, D.C. called my Warden and asked him to shut down whoever was doing the legal work for the Cubans. The Warden knew that I was the one doing the legal work, as I was the only inmate on the compound with a law degree, and I helped a lot of people, as permitted by Supreme Court precedents and the BOP Program Statement on Inmate Legal Activities. The Warden had me detained and moved to SHU for 6 months "under investigation", but no disciplinary charges were ever filed against me for that legal work. After the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in the Rosales-Garcia case, the DOJ conceded that the Petitions for Habeas Corpus should be granted and the inmates be released from Federal prison and placed on work permits in the free world. Inmates kept me up to date in SHU via messages smuggled into SHU on the food carts. One message advised that the DOJ wanted the Judge to grant the Petitions and close the files. I immediately recognized the trap, so I wrote the Judge a letter and sent it out sealed up in legal mail. At that time, there was a split in the Federal Circuit Court decisions about whether the DOJ/INS could indefinitely detain Mariel Cubans in Federal prisons as INS detainees, without any Federal criminal convictions. The Eleventh Circuit was on the opposite side of the Circuit split from the Sixth Circuit's position announced in Rosales-Garcia v. Holland. I knew that the 14 Cubans at Manchester would move to Little Havana (in Miami) following their release from Manchester. If the pending case files were closed, then the Government could re-arrest them on the streets of Miami and incarcerate them in prisons within the Eleventh Circuit. I suggested to the Judge that she keep the case files open to maintain supervision of the released men, so that the Government could not re-arrest them in Miami. Much to the frustration of the DOJ, the Judge adopted my written suggestion (made from SHU) and kept the case files open to maintain supervision. The released men traveled to Miami safely, to join their families and friends, and were not re-arrested. Eventually, a few years later, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Certiorari in one of the Mariel Cuban cases, and adopted the Sixth Circuit's view of the law. If INS detainees cannot be deported and repatriated to their home country within 6 months, they must be released to the streets of America and given work permits. The Courts rejected the Government's view that these men had no Constitutional rights because they had come to the U.S. illegally. The Supreme Court adopted the view that all people have some rights under the U.S. Constitution, even if they came here illegally, merely by being present in the U.S., on America soil.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Nov 30, 2021 9:20:00 AM

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