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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC: Solitary Confinement Linked with Increased Risk of Death after Release from Prison

A new study led by researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill has found that being held in restrictive housing (i.e., solitary confinement) is associated with an increased risk of death after a person is released from prison.

Incarcerated individuals who were placed in restrictive housing in North Carolina from 2000 to 2015 were 24 percent more likely to die in the first year after their release, compared to those who were not held in restrictive housing. In addition, people held in restrictive housing were 78 percent more likely to die from suicide, 54 percent more likely to die from homicide and 127 percent more likely to die from an opioid overdose in the first two weeks after their release.

“For the first time ever, we’ve been able to demonstrate a connection between restrictive housing during incarceration and increased risk of death when people return to the community,” said Dr. Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, the lead author of the study, which was published October 4 by JAMA Network Open. “This study provides empirical evidence to support ongoing nationwide reforms that limit the use of restrictive housing.”

“We also found that non-white individuals were disproportionately more likely to be assigned to restrictive housing than their white counterparts,” said co-author Dr. Shabbar Ranapurwala, assistant professor of epidemiology in the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. “The mortality and re-incarceration outcomes after release were also quite different between these racial groups. The post-release opioid overdose and suicide death outcomes among those receiving restrictive housing were more pronounced among white individuals, while the all-cause and homicide death and re-incarceration outcomes were higher among non-white Americans.”

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