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Examining the Details of Supermax Confinement: Commentary on a One Year Longitudinal Study of the Psychological Effects of Administrative Segregation

by Ann Marie Rocheleau

ABSTRACT:    A Colorado Department of Corrections study of the psychological effects of administrative segregation (AS) has sparked controversy.  Especially contentious is a finding of improvement in some measures over time among most groups, even those in administrative segregation. This article focuses on two aspects:  First, prisoners in the Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP), an administrative segregation prison, and in General Population (GP) were both initially tested during the relatively chaotic and stressful period surrounding the decision to place prisoners in administrative segregation and then retested again three months after the AS decision had been made and prisoners were placed.  It is therefore not surprising that they might have felt less stressed and anxious once they had had time to settle into their new environments, albeit ones they might have disliked.  Also, some GP prisoners could have still been housed in punitive segregation, while some CSP prisoners could have advanced to Level II of CSP, which is less restrictive than punitive segregation. The second focus of this article highlights certain conditions of confinement in administrative segregation and similar facilities that might affect the psychological well-being of prisoners.  As more research is done on this topic, it is recommended that researchers observe and collect data on those conditions of confinement that might alter research results, including the physical structure of these facilities; the human interaction that occurs within them; prison hardships such as boredom, lack of constructive activities and programming; incentives and disincentives; legitimation; and the fear of victimization, as well as actual victimization. Future research should not just ask what types of prisoners are benefitted or harmed, but also what conditions of confinement exacerbate problems rather than attenuate misbehavior.




Posted Tue, Jun 21 2011 10:02 AM by Tracey Vessels

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