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Revisiting and Unpacking the Mental Illness and Solitary Confinement Relationship
Justice Quarterly  (IF4.717),  Pub Date : 2021-02-03, DOI: 10.1080/07418825.2020.1871501
Sonja E. Siennick, Mayra Picon, Jennifer M. Brown, Daniel P. Mears


There is mixed evidence on whether incarcerated persons with mental illnesses have increased odds of being placed in solitary confinement. This study answered this question using a large system-wide sample and a propensity score matching design that accounted for a wide range of individual and facility confounds. Having a mental illness was associated with an increase of up to 170% in the odds of extended solitary confinement, depending on the diagnosis. A wide range of mental illnesses predicted extended solitary confinement. The association between having a mental illness and being sent to extended solitary confinement was only partially explained by misconduct. The findings suggest that incarcerated persons with mental illness may garner differential responses from the prison system, similar to those seen in studies of arrest and incarceration. Studies are needed that examine how incarcerated persons with mental illnesses are perceived by, interact with, and are sanctioned by prison staff.